Mayor: No grant for new community center yet

Published 11:10 am Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette told the board of directors of the Bogalusa YMCA that although the city failed to secure state and federal funding for a potential new community center this legislative year, the city will continue to apply for grants in the future.

At Monday’s board meeting, Perrette said that her administration has made recreational options a high priority. One of the best ways to accomplish that goal would be to build a new state-of-the-art $8 million community center, which would house both the YMCA and YWCA as well as other organizations.

Perrette said the city made a capital outlay request to the Louisiana State Legislature, asking for $2.78 million in state funding and a $6 million grant/loan from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

“We applied for financial help from the Legislature this year, but unfortunately it did not pass,” she said. “We’re going to keep trying in the future.”

Perrette said another option to fund a future community center would be to use tax money that is already collected in the city’s annual millage rate. A total of 4 mills is currently earmarked for “acquiring, constructing, improving, operating and maintaining parks and recreation facilities.”

The city collects approximately $263,000 each year in that millage, which is already on the books and will have to be re-authorized in a spring 2015 election. The city could theoretically float a bond issue to pay for a new center’s construction, and then collect millage over a span of several decades to pay off those bonds.

Perrette also suggested that the YMCA board and other concerned citizens could speak to the city council and ask them to add a millage increase as a separate ballot initiative in that same election. She noted that millage is only paid by citizens who have at least $250,000 in appraised property value.

“It’s important to educate the public to understand that this won’t affect many people at all,” she said. “You’d basically ask them to pass what is already on the books, and then pass an increase separately. It would be a ‘yes, yes’ campaign.”

Board member Bill Arata noted that the YMCA has 220 members, and if each of them convinced five people to vote for a millage rate increase, it would likely be enough to succeed in an election.

“I think we’d be able to knock it out of the park if we each did our part to educate the public,” he said.

Perrette noted that a new community center would be a public project that would benefit all genders, age groups and races.

“This endeavor has not fallen on deaf ears,” she said. “I think it’s very important. It’s not just about a new Y. It’s about a community center that brings us all together.”