Parish council backs off from proposed sales tax increase
There will not be a proposition on the Nov. 4 ballot on an increased sales tax in St. Mary Parish.
The proposed seven-tenths percent increase was removed from the parish council agenda Wednesday before it was put to a vote.
Parish President Paul Naquin said he had talked with Sheriff Mark Hebert earlier in the day and both decided that “it was not a good time,” to ask voters to approve the new tax.
Prior to that announcement, however, the council heard from Terry Guarisco of Morgan City who said he was opposed to the new tax.
“When you’re putting … well over a million dollars down 18 holes in the ground in Patterson with the taxpayers’ money how do you ask people to vote in new taxes?” he asked in reference to the Atchafalaya Golf Course that is subsidized by the parish each year.
Councilman Kevin Voisin of Morgan City said he agreed with Guarisco and added, “This sales tax would have been on the backs of the fixed income people… Sometimes you just have to live within your means.”
Based on past sales tax collections the new tax would have generated around $7.2 million per year. Half of that would have been dedicated to the sheriff’s office with the remainder split among the parish and its five municipalities. The parish’s share of about $1.4 million would have been dedicated to road and drainage improvements, according to Chief Administrative Officer Henry “Bo” LaGrange.
Items that will be on the ballot include four Home Rule Charter amendments that would give the parish council and president pay raises and alter term limits of both.
Under the compensation propositions, pay for single-member representatives would increase from $450 per month to $750; at-large pay from $800 per month to $1,100; and parish president pay from $12,000 per year to $36,000.
Propositions on term limits would allow the parish president to serve three consecutive four-year terms. Currently term limits are set at two four-year terms.
For council members the current system allows an at-large member to serve two terms then run for a single-member seat or vice versa. Under the new amendment, term limits would also be extended to three terms for all seats.
The resolution to put those propositions on the ballot passed on a 9-2 vote with Councilmen Tim Tregle and Kevin Voisin in opposition.
In making a motion on the amendments, Councilman Glen Hidalgo of Bayou Vista said the propositions were the result of recommendations by the Home Rule Charter Committee that last met in 2008.
He agreed with Councilman Albert Foulcard of Franklin and others on the council who said the issues would be up to the voters.
In other business the council:
—Passed resolutions on a contract with Professional Construction Services Inc. on the Point Chevreuil Shoreline Protection Project; and the issuance, sale and delivery of up $3.5 million general obligation refinancing bonds by Consolidated Gravity Drainage District 2.
—Deferred to finance committee a request by Councilman Charles “Butch” Middleton of Franklin to allocate $40,000 in gaming funds to construct a basketball court at St. Joseph Park.
—Appointed Deena Savoie to the Sewer District 11 committee and Fire Protection District 1 board of commissioners; Brent Young to the Sewer District 5 committee; Glen Elliott to the Wax Lake East Drainage District board; Kenneth Garber Sr. and Troy LaRive to the Kemper Williams Park Advisory Committee; and Sandra Marshall and Stan Robison to the Tourist Commission.