JP government and school leaders push property tax renewals - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

JP government and school leaders push property tax renewals

Jefferson Parish President John Young addresses business group about millages. Jefferson Parish President John Young addresses business group about millages.

Elmwood, La. - Government leaders in Jefferson Parish and public school officials are out in the community hoping to drum up support for three separate property tax millages that failed earlier this year.

On Oct. 19, voters will be asked to renew a 3.54 property tax millage for the water department and 3.58 mills for the sewerage system.

"When you talk about quality of life, I don't think you get a more basic and fundamental of service than water and sewage," Parish President John Young said after addressing a business group Tuesday afternoon.

Public schools in Jefferson Parish are counting on voters, too. A 7-mil property tax to support public schools is on the October ballot. That millage generates $23 million annually for the public school system. School leaders said if the renewal fails, deep cutbacks are certain.

"So, some of the things we've discussed would be, for instance, our whole pre-K program," said School Board Vice President Mike Delesdernier. "Twenty-three million dollars, 320 teachers. We could lose programs such as athletics, arts, music."

In May, voters rejected parish water and sewerage system renewals along with the School Board millage on the same day they defeated the proposed renewal of tolls for the Crescent City Connection.

After the outcome of the May election, Young's administration was criticized for not doing enough to educate parish voters about the importance of the water and sewerage system renewals. This time, outreach to voters is under way on several fronts, including through an educational video and inserts in water bills. Young is also speaking to civic and business groups about the need to have the two parish millages renewed. School officials are doing the same concerning the School Board millage.

Young said a $45 million low-interest state loan hinges on voters approving the  millages.

"Less than one-percent interest is contingent upon on these millages passing on Oct. 19," Young said. "That allows us to further invest in infrastructure and improve our infrastructure and quality of water and wastewater treatment in Jefferson Parish, so that we can continue to move forward."

Unlike a neighboring parish, Jefferson Parish has no problems with the EPA, and Young said he wants to keep it that way.

"Jefferson Parish has been successful in staying ahead of this curve," Young said. "Unlike some other communities, we don't have compliance or consent orders. But if the DEQ and the EPA comes in and does a compliance order or a consent order, then they dictate what the citizens pay for these services."

Delesdernier believes the school system has a better chance of winning approval this time around, and it has nothing to do with the bridge tolls not being on the ballot.

"We've got a really great message," he said. "Our school performance has just been very, very significant in the last two years."

All three proposed millage renewals are for 10 years.

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