CPPJ to let voters decide on sewer expansion tax

By By John Guidroz / American Press

Voters in the unincorporated areas of Calcasieu Parish could decide next year if they want to fund part of a $110 million

sewer expansion plan with a 20-year, quarter-cent sales tax.

Members of the Police Jury’s Ways and

Means Committee approved two resolutions during a meeting Thursday. One

calls for creating

a sales tax district in the unincorporated areas, while the other

calls for putting the tax on the April 5 ballot for voters

in that district.

The sewer expansion plan would be funded by the sales tax, more than $50 million in parish gambling funds and nearly $12 million

in state capital outlay money. The sales tax could generate $4.3 million annually.

Parish Administrator Bryan Beam told the panel that the sales tax would include reducing the road and garbage tax now levied

in Wards 2-8 from 1.5 cents to 1.25 cents, making it tax neutral for residents in those areas. Residents in Ward 1, which

includes Moss Bluff and Gillis, do not pay that specific tax.

A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 7 to get input on the proposed sales tax district.

The full Police Jury must approve the resolution for the sales tax to go on the April ballot. The tax would become effective

Jan. 1, 2015, if approved by voters.

Tax Renewals

The committee also approved putting

several tax renewals on the April ballot to fund services like mosquito

control, the Calcasieu

District Attorney’s Office and Lake Charles Regional Airport.

Beam said the 10-year, 2.41-mill parishwide property tax to fund mosquito control remains unchanged from its 2004 renewal

amount. The tax, which has been in place since 1975, is important because the projected growth within the parish over the

next several years could call for additional services.

“If you can picture all these new subdivisions and mobile-home parks and things that are continuing to be built ... their

jobs (will be) even tougher,” Beam said.

The tax could generate $4.16 million each year.

A 10-year, 3.16-mill parishwide property tax renewal would continue to fund operations for the district attorney and the 14th

Judicial District Court. Beam said voters first approved the tax in 1985.

District Attorney John DeRosier said the tax pays for “more than one-third” of the office’s $6 million annual budget. He said

renewing the tax is important because the amount of state funding continues to decrease.

Judge David Ritchie said the court spends money from the tax “wisely to pay our staff, secretaries and court reporters.”

“It is vital to our basic operation,” he said of the tax. “It costs to operate a judicial system.”

Beam said that 20 percent of what the tax initially generates is used on fees for juries and witnesses. Whatever is not used

is spent on the district attorney and the court. The tax is expected to generate $5.45 million annually.

A 10-year, 0.63-mill property tax renewal would fund operations at Lake Charles Regional Airport. Heath Allen, the airport’s

executive director, said the tax “counts for about 30 percent of our budget.”

Allen said the tax is levied to residents within Airport District 1, which is located within Ward 3 and part of Ward 4. It

would generate about $688,940 annually.

A 10-year, 6.39-mill property tax renewal would fund maintenance and operating costs for Waterworks District 5 of Wards 3

and 8. The tax would apply to residents within the district, and would generate about $160,079 per year.

All tax renewals would become effective Jan. 1, 2015, if approved by voters. The resolutions must be approved by the full

Police Jury.