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Will Jefferson Parish increase property taxes by collecting 100 percent of the drainage tax?

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(WVUE) -

Some Jefferson Parish council members said Friday they are not ready to raise property taxes by collecting all of the mills of the drainage tax.

And late afternoon, the Yenni administration signaled that its interest in the idea is not etched in stone.

In a Metairie neighborhood drainage is top of mind for some residents.

"And when it comes down it stops right here. All of the debris from the streets and everything stops right in this drain, so I clean it really good,” said Mary Rose Christopher.

She said she keeps an eye on the catch basin on the street in front of her home.

Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni is asking the council to consider whether to collect the maximum amount of the 6-mill drainage tax that is already on the books.

"Drainage is one of those things that we could always do more drainage projects and certainly the past couple of weeks we've seen the importance of rainfall, just what we're up against,” said Councilwoman-at-Large Cynthia Lee-Sheng.

Still she is not sold on the idea that it is time to increase the drainage property tax.

Lee-Sheng favors looking at surpluses in other accounts first.

"We just got the audit for last year, it was just delivered to us so we have some fresh data to look at and we can look at where our surpluses are and see which drainage projects need to be done and can we peel off some money from other accounts and put it to that use,” she said.

Mrs. Christopher would not mind   parish leaders looking at options that do not include higher property tax bills, but what she wants more than anything is less of a flooding risk.

"I think it's a good idea, she can look into it and see which is best, best way,” she said.

Back in December people here in Jefferson Parish voted to approve the 6-mill drainage tax, but the parish council voted earlier this year to collect on a portion of it."

"The council voted for the 4.64 mills to be assessed,” continued Lee-Sheng.

The council is scheduled to take up a measure in October that would allow for the collection of the 6-mills.

But Lee-Sheng said the public has  not been adequately educated on the proposal.

"When the administration and everybody were going out we were saying it was not a tax increase and in technical terms maybe it isn't a tax increase but when people are paying more at their bill they see that as an increase,” she said.

Fellow Councilman Paul Johnston said he wants to hear a more thorough presentation from the administration on why such a move would be necessary.

And Councilman Ricky Templet said given that the council not long ago voted to collect less than the 6-mills he is not in favor of going back on that at this time.

"When the administration and everybody were going out we were saying it was not a tax increase and in technical terms maybe it isn't a tax increase but when people are paying more at their bill they see that as an increase,” said Lee-Sheng.

"A little bit more money wouldn't hurt if it has people's peace of mind of no more flooding in the areas,” said Christopher.

Lee-Sheng said property tax bills are already slated to go up before year’s end.

"We already know that the property owners are going to get a tax increase in December through recreation, so this would be on top of that, and that is my reluctance I would say,” she said.

Parish Chief Operating Officer Keith Conley issued a statement late Friday afternoon.

“There has been talk or interest in looking at the Drainage millage and needs within our drainage infrastructure. A notice was read into summary out of an abundance of caution due to hard and fast statutorily mandated time lines dealing with millages and tax rolls. It may not be addressed at all and can be cancelled at a later date. There is no indication at this time as to what the will of the council as a whole may be but if there is a desire to move forward we will have this ability to do so. Time will tell,” he said.

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