[StBernard] St. Bernard Parish voters will decide on levee tax renewal and tax break for disabled veterans

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Oct 18 08:06:49 EDT 2011

St. Bernard Parish voters will decide on levee tax renewal and tax break for
disabled veterans

Published: Monday, October 17, 2011, 6:11 PM Updated: Monday, October
17, 2011, 6:13 PM

By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, The Times-Picayune

Two proposals, a Lake Borgne Basin Levee District millage renewal and a
doubling of the homestead exemption for certain disabled veterans, will
round out the St. Bernard Parish ballot on Saturday.

The levee district proposal would be a 30-year, 3-mill property tax renewal
to begin in 2015 and end in 2044. The district, which operates levees and
drainage in St. Bernard, would garner $900,000 in its first year of

That money would go toward building and maintaining levees and other flood

The district, based in Violet, is responsible for 60 miles of levees, eight
pumping stations and 53 miles of drainage canals. Its operations are
financed primarily through ad valorem taxes, state revenue sharing and
interest earnings.

The federal government provided money to repair and strengthen the hurricane
protection system after Hurricane Katrina, but officials also required the
state and local levee districts to pay for a share of the work, as well as
operations and maintenance, for 30 years. As a result, the Southeast
Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East has anticipated a five- or
six-fold increase in the cost of operating the new system.

The local districts might also be responsible for paying for future
additions of clay, called lifts, that will be needed to keep earthen parts
of the levee system at the right height as they subside and the sea level
rises during the next 50 years.

The other ballot proposal would authorize an additional homestead exemption
for veterans who are considered 100 percent disabled by the U.S. Department
of Military Affairs because of service-related injuries. That benefit would
extend to spouses after the disabled veterans die.

A constitutional amendment Louisiana voters approved in November -- by a
margin of 60 percent to 40 percent in St. Bernard -- gave parishes the
option to hold local elections on the homestead exemption increase for
veterans whose injuries during their service render them entirely unable to
work. If approved, the exemption would increase from the usual $75,000 to
$150,000 for those veterans.

St. Bernard Parish Assessor Marlene Vinsanau said she supports the measure
and, although she doesn't know the exact cost to the parish, anticipates it
would be a very small amount annually.

Robin Keller, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Veterans Affairs,
said St. Bernard has 1,647 veterans. Keller said she does not know the
number of disabled veterans in the parish.

The government watchdog group Bureau of Governmental Research has opposed
the measure, saying the federal government should provide such benefits. BGR
estimated last fall that 2,500 veterans statewide would qualify.

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