Last Modified: Thursday, April 10, 2014 12:52 PM
Last week’s defeat of a sales tax swap that would have funded sewage improvements in the unincorporated areas of Calcasieu Parish serves as a reminder of the difficulty of getting voter approval on complex tax issues.
The measure put forth by the Police Jury called for taking a quarter-cent sales tax dedicated to road improvements and garbage pickup in the unincorporated areas and repurposing it to fund, in large part, a $110 million sewer expansion in those areas. The tax, along with $50 million in gambling revenue and nearly $12 million in state funds, would have extended sewer services into south Lake Charles, Moss Bluff, Carlyss and areas outside Sulphur, Westlake, Iowa, Vinton and DeQuincy.
But the proposal failed 61 percent to 39 percent and carried only six of 73 precincts in the parish, three of which are located in south Lake Charles.
The proposal would have caused the sales tax in Ward 1, the Moss Bluff-Gillis area, to rise from 9.25 percent to 9.5 percent because residents there don’t pay the road and garbage tax. It would have been tax neutral in the other unincorporated areas.
Proponents said the sewer tax would have not only reduced the amount of raw sewage in ditches and waterways, but would also have removed a huge sticking point to economic development in the outlying areas of the parish.
Deciphering all the reasons the proposition failed is impossible.
Opponents noted that home and business owners would likely still have to pay thousands of dollars to tie their system into the main lines.
Many folks in the outlying areas have also resented the Police Jury’s tougher inspection standards for their mechanical systems. That resentment, and anger, could have also been a factor.
The notion also exists in some corners that the Police Jury is flush with money and did not need the tax to foot the bill.
And, of course, there’s always an anti-tax sentiment, no matter how valid the proposal. How else can anyone explain that one in four Calcasieu Parish voters opposed a property tax renewal that funds mosquito control in the parish?
Here’s the bottom line: Many families and businesses are making tough choices these days; government agencies have to do the same thing.
Tax increases are a tough sell, and even some renewals are attracting more opposition.
Therefore it is incumbent on elected officials to be good stewards with taxpayer money, whether it be in the areas of staffing, equipment purchases or consolidation of services.