Millage renewals on tomorrow’s ballot

Published 8:45 am Friday, May 1, 2015

Washington Parish voters have the opportunity to vote Saturday on whether or not to renew ad valorem millage taxes on five proposals.

Parishwide, residents will be asked to vote on 3.11 mills required to maintain the parish health unit, 4.6 mills required to maintain the library system, 1.03 mills needed to maintain the courthouse and public buildings and 4.13 mills necessary to maintain bridges and public roads. The Bogalusa City Schools District is also asking voters to renew its 6.43 millage tax.

The Washington Parish Library System operates four libraries, one each in Bogalusa, Franklinton, Thomas and Enon. The renewal is expected to generate $809,000 annually.

Washington Parish Library Director Al Barron has made it known that if the millage renewal is voted down on Saturday, the libraries will close soon after all reserve funds are exhausted. It’s estimated over 400 people daily visit one of the four branches.

Barron has said in the past he is confident parish voters will support the library.

“It’s not a new tax, but just a continuation of one that has been going on for a long time,” Barron said. “Folks in Washington Parish have always been civic minded.”

The renewal for the school system is for the basic operation of the schools, according to Finance and Business Manager Deloris Walker.

“This millage is very important to the Bogalusa City Schools District. We appreciate citizens getting out and exercising their right to vote,” Walker said.

The 3.11 mills for the health unit are expected to generate $555,000 annually. The health unit offers nutrition education, WIC nutrition services for women, infants and children, family planning services, children’s health services and maintenance of vital records.

Washington Parish had the highest infant mortality rate in the state in 2008. Parish officials said these programs helped reduce those mortality rates. The health unit has clinics in both Franklinton and Bogalusa.

Regarding the 4.13 millage renewal for public roads and bridge maintenance, the renewal is estimated to generate about $738,000.

Washington Parish President Richard Thomas said millage rates for public roads and bridges have changed little since 1937 when it was 1 mill.

Since 2009, the parish has blacktopped 156.4 miles of roads at a cost of $5,187,400, or an average cost per mile of $33,244. Some 61.6 of those miles were converted from gravel. The parish has 46 full-time employees in the department.

The 1.03 mills for the upkeep of the courthouse and public buildings is expected to generate $182,000.

“Our aged buildings need constant maintenance,” Thomas said.

Thomas said it is imperative parish residents vote to renew all millage taxes.

“We wouldn’t have enough money to function,” Thomas said. “We would have to cut down on all the road crews and couldn’t continue road maintenance the health unit or library. That’s how important all these things are.”