St. John Parish voters to decide a flood protection millage Saturday

St. John Parish voters to decide a flood protection millage Saturday

ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Voters in St. John the Baptist Parish will decide a proposed new property tax this Saturday to pay for flood protection, and some residents whose homes were damaged by floodwaters from Hurricane Isaac said more protection is sorely needed.

"Yeah, we were scared, I came out the door and I saw the water just rising in less than 15 minutes," said Annette Bland.

She has lived in the Spring Meadow Subdivision for 10 years.

"We don't want to get flooded out again, and then the flood insurance is high in this area now so we don't want to get flooded again," Bland said.

Parish government is proposing a 30-year, 7-mill property tax to fund flood protection. If the tax passes, homeowners whose property value falls below the $75,000 homestead exemption would not pay anything; an owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay $17.50 a year; for homes valued at $200,000 it would be $87.50; for a $300,000 home the tax would cost the homeowner $157.50 annually; for property valued at $400,000 it would be $227.50; and for a $500,000 home the bill would be $297.50.

Judith Price, who has lived in LaPlace for a long time, is not put off by the idea of paying more to get flood protection.

"Something needs to be done. I don't think the millage is too high, either," Price said.

Right now there is basically nothing to keep waters from Lake Pontchartrain from invading nearby neighborhoods when there is storm surge.

"Absolutely, and unfortunately we found that out with several of the hurricanes…although the focus has been on Hurricane Isaac in 2012, those who have been here for a while know that during Hurricane Gustav and Ike our interchanges and north of the interstate was under water again, also with Tropical Storm Lee," said St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom.

The proposed millage would fund the parish's portion of a planned 18-mile hurricane protection levee with pumping stations and floodgates extending from the Bonnet Carre' Spillway in Montz to the Hope Canal in Garyville. Robottom said it is critical that money is generated locally to secure the necessary federal dollars.

"Nobody wants to pay more taxes, but clearly what we've been told is we have to show that we have skin in the game. For other people to commit dollars to a project that affect St. John the Baptist Parish, St. John needs to be committed to that project," she said.

The Westshore Levee Project has a price tag of $718 million.

"The federal government is responsible for 65 percent, and then the non-federal sponsor, which is composed of our parish, the levee board and CPRA at the state level is responsible for the remaining 35 percent, and of that 35 percent St. John the Baptist Parish is responsible for 20 percent," said Robottom.

The local share of the project is $50 million and the parish would have to foot the costs of maintenance after it is built.

Robottom said the check from the federal government has not come down yet. It is something Robottom has fielded questions on of late.

"One of the other questions that they ask is well, what if the federal government doesn't come through, well, we're not anticipating that because they've shown their commitment to this project by including in the WIN Act, [Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation Act], the state has shown its commitment by including it in master plan," she said.

And Robottom believes better flood protection would result in reduced or more stable flood insurance rates.

"I wish our rates would go down a little bit, my insurance went way up," said Price.

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