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Voters need to reject Caddo, Bossier Parish tax increases

Both Caddo and Bossier Parishes are requesting on Sep. 30 that their citizens allow their taxes to be increased. In both cases, the people are better off keeping their money.

It doesn’t take much thought to reject the Caddo request. It is almost the same request made a couple of years ago rejected at the polls, but things have been changed since that may more efficiently use taxpayers’ dollars in funding juvenile justice in the parish – if given the time. State Rep. Mike Powell got passed a law that reorganizes operations in that area to a certain extent, and this needs to be given a couple of years trial before more costly solutions are tried.

Bossier presents a stronger case but ultimately its request deserves rejection as well. An analysis of the request and a stroll through the parish’s financial reports shows why.

To begin, note that the kinds of road improvements that comprise the request are the kind that would be nice and convenient to have, but are not crucial, at least relative to the most recent big road project of the parish, widening of Airline Drive. Yes, they probably would reduce traffic hassles for some, but they do not have the impact justifying almost tripling the current level of the tax.

In reality, the vast majority of the request actually is more a favor to Bossier City than the parish – lengthening of the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway to loop over to Highway 71, connecting a thruway to two parts of the city almost all of which would go through non-city jurisdiction. By that standard, it’s better to work out some deal with the city since it will mainly benefit it than to have parish taxpayers foot the bill.

(And the city has every incentive to cooperate, to gain control over where to site the extension given the presence of a federal wildlife refuge close by. Both the city and parish let that get by, causing a panicked reaction last spring by some city and parish officials who felt so insecure about the situation that they had circulated fliers asking residents to contact the federal government about this. Fortunately, a satisfactory solution to all parties for now was worked out.)

Especially when removing that from taxpayer considerations, the remainder of the requests easily may be accomplished given existing resources (which means renewing the tax at its existing assessed 1.99 mills level, not the requested 6.40 mills level). The parish is flush with over $5 million in its highway fund at the end of 2005 (so much so in fact, it transferred out nearly $4.5 million after collecting about $1.5 million above expenditures, mainly due to higher sales tax revenues and lower expenses, most of the excess going to the Airline Drive work which now is winding down, although $75,000 went to general government expenses). Economic trends give no indication that the fund will not see continued surpluses moved into it over the next few years.

And if other revenues were needed, the parish’s current financial health is such that no additional resources are necessary. Reviewing the highway fund for this year, through the first eight months of the year (that is, 75 percent of it) only 62.59 percent of the budget was spent. This shows that there is enough slack to be allocated for other purposes (however, governments typically spend up to their budgeted amounts because they want to make it appear that they need all the money they have available, so look for the fourth quarter to be a big spending quarter on roads in Bossier Parish).

As for the rest of the parish’s operations, results from 2005 showed strong revenue-over-expenditure growth expected in 2006, a condition likely to continue. Again, this leaves no reason to believe that the lesser improvements around which the increased request was formulated could not be financed in a pay-as-you-go situation, or even the entire package.

n short, the importance of the roads to the parish relative to its existing financial health does not justify extracting an extra $2 million or more a year out of property owners (in reality, just a handful of them given the homestead exemption). Bossier Parish voters need to turn this down, with the Police Jury coming back next year asking for a renewal of just 2 mills which is all they need if they want to pursue this agenda.

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