JP leaders say tough times if tax millages vote fails Saturday

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 15, 2013 at 6:14 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 15 at 6:20 PM

Thanh Truong / Eyewitness News
Email: ttruong@wwltv.com | Twitter: @thanh412

GRETNA, La. -- At a pre-kindergarten class at Gretna Park Elementary, it was almost nap time for the students.

It's probably the last place a person would look to talk about tax renewal, but pre-K classes in Jefferson Parish would be up for cuts if voters decide to reject ballot proposals on Oct. 19t

Current millage or tax property rates generate roughly $23 million a year for the Jefferson Parish's public school system. It basically pays for the nuts and bolts operation in classrooms, things like teacher salaries.

"This millage, contributes to our operating budget, $23 million that continue to focus on the day and day support for teachers and students," said James Meza, superintendent of Jefferson Parish Public Schools:

Meza said the school system is improving test scores and making strides in correcting past budgeting problems. A rejection by voters on the renewals, Meza said, could undo a good amount of academic and financial progress. His message is very similar to Jefferson Parish President John Young's.

"I want to make it clear that this is not a tax increase. This is a tax renewal, it keeps us where need to be, to keep the services the parish is running," said Young.

After a similar ballot failed in the spring, Young's administration was criticized for not fully explaining the importance of the measures. Many also point to the fact that previous ballot was also attached to very unpopular Crescent City Connection tolls, which voters readily shot down. This time around, Young has been proactive, meeting with groups big and small to win support.

"We've really left no stone unturned," Young said. "This is very important."

The millage renewals also impact water and sewage services in Jefferson Parish. If approved, the property tax renewals would generate a little more than $18 million a year to aspects like maintaining water quality and responding to water main breaks or leaks.

"Especially now with what's happening in some neighboring parishes, you can't overstate the importance of safe and clean drinking water, even water to bathe and shower in," said Young.

Residents like David Vallot are convinced.

"It's a matter of, if you get rid of the millages, then you're something is going to have be taken from somewhere else," said Vallot.

A message the parish echoes.

 

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