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HOUMA, La. - A measure on the fall ballot will ask voters for permission to use taxpayer money to build a new Terrebonne Parish Health Unit.

The Parish Council unanimously agreed to add the measure to the Nov. 6 ballot.The 1.66 mill property tax that benefits the Polk Street-based health unit can currently only be used for maintenance and operation. Officials want to use some of the $2.6 million saved in the unit's account to build a new health unit.Voters would also be asked to renew the existing tax, which is currently set to expire in 2019. The new expiration date would be 2030.The first $75,000 of a home's value is exempt from taxes in Louisiana, so the tax costs the owner of a $150,000 house about $12.45 annually.'I'm never for taxing our citizens without a good reason, so I just want to make sure this isn't adding more taxes,' Councilman John Navy said, seeking clarification from Jamie Elfert, the parish's finance director.'I just want to be clear that we did not vote to add a new tax or raise any taxes,' Councilwoman Arlanda Williams said. 'Let's make sure everyone understands that.'The vote changes wording 'to allow the money to be used for construction instead of just operation and maintenance and to charge the tax longer,' Elfert said. 'But we are not adding a new tax.'The Health Unit is a primary site in Terrebonne for low-cost health care, immunizations and check-ups. The clinic is run in cooperation with the state Health and Hospitals Department.Parish President Michel Claudet said the new health unit site has been discussed for about four years. Project planners don't want to move it too far from its current spot. The fear is that patients won't venture far from home.Officials are eyeing the Legion Avenue site once occupied by the Legion Park pool, Claudet said.'We've been able to accumulate some money and have consulted several architects. Next, in July, I'll meet with some officials from DHH to try and get the plans finalized,' he said.
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