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Library, Council on Aging millages up for Nov. vote

As previously noted in this space, Bossier Parish voters will face a full ballot of choices on November 4.  In addition to political races, Bossier Parish voters will decide several millage renewal propositions, as well as one new millage.

One of the millage considerations is the 10-year renewal of the 7.57 mill property tax “for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, equipping, maintaining and operating the public library facilities and system” in the Parish.  This annual millage  collects about $7.2 million that’s dedicated exclusively to funding the library system.

Heather McEntee, Bossier Parish library system director, said that library users and others interested in knowing what the parish’s eight libraries offer should be able to peruse the system’s extensive use of the millage funding on the system’s website around mid-October.  That website will also offer a “calculator” to value the services offered to patrons who use the system’s books, programs, computers, etc.

“We want to inform the public on what we are doing with their money and how we serve them,” McEntee said.

In the meantime, she offered a short course on the use of the funding:  “… upkeep of the eight facilities throughout the parish, plus all services offered … books, movies, and technology … we’re always upgrading the technology  — computers and components,” McEntee said.  And that was a short list of the library system’s offerings.

She estimated that the percent of library patrons using the system’s technology offerings has tripled in the last several years because of the growing need to complete state and federal government forms on-line – and that many people still aren’t able to afford the technology required to access these sites.

Those tax receipts also pay the salaries/benefits of the system’s 90 employees, and a percentage of the millage receipts are dedicated to funding new facilities in the parish.  Notably, McEntee pointed to construction of the new Elm Grove library facility – there was no request to taxpayers for additional funding for this construction because the funding was reserved from the annual millage receipts for such capital improvement projects.

A proposition for a new millage concerns more secure funding for the Bossier Parish Council on Aging (COA).

Tamara Crane, Executive Director of the local COA explained that since 1974, this agency has been providing services to seniors with the goal of allowing the aging members of our community to stay at home and not be forced into institutional living for lack of alternatives.  Such alternatives/services include Meals on Wheels, assisting caregivers, and light housekeeping to name a few of the services.

Crane also noted that Bossier Parish touts our community as a good place to retire – and that our community should be one that works to allow our senior citizens to enjoy independent living to the greatest extent possible.

Funding sources for the many programs offered by the Bossier Parish COA include the federal Older Americans Act – which suffered budget cuts last year — and the state Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs (collectively, about 50 percent) and support from the Bossier Parish Police Jury and Bossier City (25 percent).  Additionally, the Town of Benton provides space for COA programs.  Finally about 25 percent of the agency’s funding comes from client contributions, donations, grants, and a small amount of Medicaid funding because the agency is a transportation provider.

In it’s 40 year history, the Bossier Parish COA has never had a “true and locked in source of secure funding,” Crane said.

Finally, Crane said that if parish voters approve the new 1 mill (1/10 of a cent) property tax, both Bossier City and Bossier Parish would discontinue their annual support of the agency.

From this view, approving a new 1 mill property tax for supporting seniors, and seeing the parish and city remove their contributions would likely be a wash for property owners.  And approving the renewal of the parish library system’s millage would ensure a continuance of a state-of-the-art library system.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the Bossier Press-Tribune. She may be reached via email at martycarlson1218@gmail.com

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