New and old taxes await East Baton Rouge voters in November

New and old taxes await voters in November

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Besides electing who will run the country and the parish in a few months, what East Baton Rouge voters will spend will also be considered as the November ballot will hold two major tax elections and December could see even more.

The "war room" is a common fixture during election season as a place to plan and recruit voters. The East Baton Rouge Council of Aging (COA) has its own version. Maps of council and legislative districts hang on the wall with pins marking the overlap. On the tables, thousands of post cards asking for votes await stamps.

However, the handwritten cards aren't asking voters to back a candidate, they are asking them to support a new tax.

In November, the COA will ask for a new tax to support their many, high demand programs. The COA's goal is to eliminate the waiting list they say is made up of thousands of seniors who are need of Meals on Wheels or other COA services.

For a home valued at $174,000, which is the estimated median for the parish, the new tax would add $22.28 a year in property taxes. That's money, the COA's executive director said will go straight to seniors.

"What's most important is to know that this millage, as small as it is, goes to help people who can't help themselves," said executive director Tasha Clark-Amar.

BREC will also ask voters for a renewal in November. That tax, which voters already pay, is one of six that support the BREC system. The tax up for renewal makes up half of BREC's operation and maintenance budget, meaning it will keep the lights on and the water running.

"It doesn't allow us to build anything new, but it allows us to operate what we already have," said BREC spokesperson Cheryl Michelet.

Voters already approved the other half of BREC's operational funding by passing a different renewal back in 2014. Michelet said it would spell disaster if voters rejected the upcoming renewal.

However, tax fatigue may mean a tough battle ahead for any taxes, according to political analyst Jim Engster.

"On the surface, this is a terrible time to be calling for taxes because the economy is not doing as great as people would hope, and we just had an array of taxes passed by the legislature," said Engster. "So, how much stomach does the electorate have for another tax?"

The tax options on the November ballot are just the start. Voters could see many additional local tax measures or renewals in December, if city leaders approve their place on the ballot.

Currently, the mayor's office is holding public meetings to explain what could be considered an extension of the Green Light Project. Another possible tax would pay for the construction and operation of a mental health facility. The Metro Council is expected to discuss both in September.

Voters could also face a handful of renewal requests from area fire departments, depending on where they live.

Engster points out that high voter turnout in November will be an advantage for the COA proposition and the BREC renewal. The key for the supporters of other taxes, Engster said, is showing voters what they are paying for.

"The taxes that are up for discussion and for vote are ones that generally Baton Rougeons have been receptive to in the past. I think people who are proponents have the make the case that these are necessary for our community to move forward," said Engster.

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