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Commentary: December 2016 ballot propositions 

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While the rest of America prepares for a (hopefully) peaceful holiday season after a divisive, often toxic election season, Louisiana has one more Election Day left. On Dec. 10, the local ballot features a half-dozen important tax propositions — most of them renewals — and runoffs for U.S. Senate and mayor of Kenner. Early voting began on Saturday, Nov. 26, and continues through Saturday, Dec. 3.

  We previously endorsed Jefferson Parish Councilman Ben Zahn for mayor of Kenner. We still support him as he faces Kenner City Councilman Gregory Carroll in the runoff. In the Senate primary, we recommended both Republican Congressman Charles Boustany and Democrat Caroline Fayard, neither of whom made the runoff. We make no further recommendation in that contest.

  Meanwhile, we make the following recommendations on the ballot propositions in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish:

  New Orleans voters will see two citywide propositions — a new 2.5-mill property tax increase for fire protection services and renewal of an existing property tax for drainage services. We support both propositions.

  The fire protection proposition would yield nearly $9 million a year for 12 years, beginning next year, and would not be subject to the homestead exemption. Revenue from the tax will help pay for tens of millions of dollars in legal judgments the city owes firefighters and their pension fund. If voters reject this tax, the city will still have to pay the judgments — by cutting vital services elsewhere. We urge our readers in New Orleans to vote YES on the fire projection millage proposition.

  The Sewerage and Water Board proposition would renew an existing 4.66-mill property tax — at a lower rate of 4.46 mills. This millage is dedicated to maintaining critical drainage services throughout the city. Without this revenue, drainage services would decline. We urge our readers in New Orleans to vote YES on the Sewerage and Water Board drainage proposition.

  Most Jefferson Parish voters will see four ballot propositions — renewal of an existing one-cent sales tax for sewerage, road and drainage projects, law enforcement and municipal governments; and renewal of three existing property taxes for drainage, recreation and public schools. These propositions merely renew existing taxes and would result in no tax increases.

  Because each of these propositions represents merely a continuation of existing taxes, each of which is dedicated to vital services, and because their renewal will not increase taxes in Jefferson Parish, we urge Jefferson voters to approve them all. Here is a closer look:

  The sales tax renewal appears on the ballot everywhere in Jefferson Parish. It would not apply to food products or medical services. Seven-eighths (7/8) of the revenue collected from this existing tax would continue funding important sewerage, drainage and road projects in Jefferson's unincorporated areas and in the town of Jean Lafitte. Renewal of this tax would allow the parish to leverage significant federal dollars with no increase in the parish's annual debt service. The Parish Council already has identified about $85 million in new projects that would be funded by the tax in 2017. Revenues produced in the parish's five other incorporated areas could be used as those towns and cities deem best. One-eighth (1/8) of the revenue generated in unincorporated areas would go to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office for public safety. We urge our readers in Jefferson to vote YES on the parish sales tax renewal.

  The school millage renewal also appears on the ballot parishwide. If approved by voters, the current rate of 4 mills would remain the same for another 10 years and would continue to fund school technology, capital projects, and school facility maintenance and improvements. There is no more important investment that voters can make than public education. We urge our readers in Jefferson to vote YES on the school millage renewal.

  The drainage tax proposition affects all of Jefferson except the town of Grand Isle. It would renew the existing 4.64-mill property tax for drainage for 10 years. Renewal would continue critical funding for operation and maintenance of Jefferson Parish's drainage system and help fund needed improvements. We recommend voting YES for the parish drainage millage.

  The recreation tax proposition would renew the existing 7.8-mill property tax for recreation in the parish's unincorporated areas and in the town of Jean Lafitte for 10 years. Renewal would preserve critical funding for facilities and programs, which would be virtually wiped out if voters reject the tax. This proposition directly affects the quality of life across Jefferson Parish. We urge our readers to vote YES for the recreational tax renewal.


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