Westley Annis Westley at da-parish.com
Mon Oct 26 16:55:33 EDT 2009

Proposed Fee for Services Still on Ballot in St. Bernard

Parish President to Host Radio Town Hall Meeting November 4, 2009

As the St. Bernard Parish Council considers removing a ballot issue
concerning apartment complexes greater than six units, two other important
ballot issues remain scheduled for the November 14, 2009 election. In an
effort to discuss one of the issues still on the ballot, the proposed $20
per month fee, St. Bernard Parish President Craig P. Taffaro, Jr. will host
a Town Hall meeting on the parish's AM radio station, 1680 AM. The Town
Hall meeting will be held Wednesday, November 4 from 7 p.m. until 8 p.m.,
and President Taffaro is planning to take calls from citizens to answer
questions about the fee by calling in to 278-4227 during the broadcast.

The two remaining items address a Home Rule Charter change that allows
council members to serve on boards and commissions without compensation.
This item will clarify language in the Home Rule Charter that did not
address the membership of council members on boards and commissions that are
separate political subdivisions of the state. At the time the Home Rule
Charter was implemented in 1992, there were no such boards or commissions.
Currently, the St. Bernard Parish Housing, Redevelopment, and Quality of
Life Commission and the Hospital Service District are two boards that fall
into the need for clarification in the Home Rule Charter. If the proposed
change passes, council members would be allowed to serve on boards such as
the HRQL and the HSD without compensation. Should the measure fail, the
membership of council members on state authorized boards and commissions
would be in jeopardy.

The other issue scheduled on the November 14, 2009 ballot is the proposition
of a $20 per month fee for six years. The proposed fee would be split with
$10 per month being dedicated to fire protection and $10 per month being
dedicated to sanitation services. The fee is being proposed as a means to
assist in paying for services within St. Bernard Parish Government that are
usually covered by sales tax revenues from the parish's general fund. The
proposed fee will generate approximately $3.5 million a year. The costs of
sanitation and fire protection are approximately $10.5 million a year. The
parish already dedicates $1.7 million in property taxes to fire protection
and $800,000 in property taxes to sanitation. That means the parish must use
sales tax revenue to make up the majority of the shortfall for fire
protection service and sanitation service.

Should the fee pass, fees would be imposed on water bills for a period of
six years and services to parish residents would continue. Should the fee
fail, services in fire stations, sanitation, recreation, public works,
resident services, and community development all will be impaired. Specific
cuts to the 2010 budget will be discussed in detail should the proposed fee
not pass but will likely include a decrease in garbage collection, a
decrease in non-fee recreational services, employee cuts, a decrease in
complaint call responses, a cut in non-emergency repairs and services like
grass cutting and sidewalk and curb repair work.

An example of how the proposed fee would impact the budget is similar to a
household budget in which a resident who has to pay tuition each month. So
a portion of the money the resident makes each month is dedicated to paying
the tuition. If the tuition is $500 dollars each month and the resident
earns $1,500 per month the resident is left with $1,000 each month to spend
on other monthly household obligations. If the resident were to receive a
scholarship of $250 each month, she would now have $1,250 dollars per month
to spend on other household obligations instead of only $1,000 dollars. If
the student didn't receive a scholarship and the tuition went up, there
would be less money to spend on other household obligations. The same is
true for parish government. If the proposed fee passes, then parish
government has the opportunity to maintain services in all areas. If the
fee does not pass, the parish government will have less money to spend on
the services outside of fire and sanitation and even those are likely to be
in jeopardy.

Some basic facts to this proposed fee include:

* The fee is $20 per month for six years only.

* The fee cannot be extended by the council or the administration.

* The fee is dedicated to fire protection and sanitation service.

* The $20 per month fee is proposed to be waived for senior citizens.

Without the fee, services like fire personnel, sanitation, grass cutting,
complaint responses, demolition, code enforcement, and even recreation will
likely be cut.

Residents are encouraged to tune in to 1680 AM on Wednesday, November 4,
2009 at 7 p.m. or to contact the parish administration for additional
information about the proposed fee.

For more information about the Growth and Recovery in St. Bernard Parish,
visit our website at www.sbpg.net <http://www.sbpg.net/> .


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