New millage, renewal up for vote

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Bossier Parish residents will have to decide on passing a new tax that will help serve area seniors and renewal of a millage for parish libraries.

A proposition for a new 1 mill (1/10 of a cent) property tax millage for the Bossier Council on Aging (BCOA) would see secure funding for the first time in the agency’s 40-year history.

The BCOA provides services to seniors with the goal of allowing the aging members of Bossier to stay at home and not be forced into institutional living for lack of alternatives.  The funds produced by the millage would be utilized to improve those services to alleviate the council’s waiting list in homemaker and caregiver services, expand transportation services for current meal centers in Bossier City and Benton, and put in more centers in Haughton and/or south Bossier.

“We have been fortunate to not have a waiting list for seven years, until the last six months. It speaks to the fact that people know the things we’re doing and there are more seniors moving to Bossier Parish,” said Tamara Crane,  executive director of the BCOA. “We have services that are piecemealing it together that we can’t expand.”

She noted that the Haughton area, both Haughton town limits and the area off Highway 80, are both underserved, as is south Bossier.  The cuts in funding from the federal Older Americans Act and the state Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs in addition to the lack of certainty over funding with no dedicated money from the Bossier Parish Police Jury and Bossier City means those areas will go unserved.

“It’s getting harder and harder to get funding. Everyone wants a piece of the same pie and the pie is not getting any bigger,” Crane said.

She said failure to pass the millage would see the BCOA become stagnant and require cuts in services.

“We have been lucky that we haven’t had to (make cuts), but you have to have people in place to do the job and there’s only so much reducing you can do,” Crane explained.

Crane noted that Bossier Parish touts itself as a good place to retire and the job done by the BCOA allows senior citizens to enjoy independent living and a good quality of life.

“Everything the council does is to support seniors and their caregivers to remain at home. We offer these service for not only disabled or homebound but active seniors,” said Crane. “We need seniors in our community. They are a watchdog, they make our community stable. It’s the right thing for our community.”

Voters will also consider renewing the 10-year 7.57 mill property tax that generates 96 percent of the library’s budget for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, equipping, maintaining and operating the public library facilities and system.

“With Bossier Parish growing and the needs of the community ever-changing, the library is always looking for ways to remain a necessity and stay relevant with patrons. We have (mapped out) our specific goals we are looking to accomplish over the next 10 years.  However, we cannot accomplish these goals without the proper funding,” said Heather McEntee, Bossier Parish library system director.

She estimates 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.

Without the funds provided by the renewal, McEntee says the library would have to cut hours and positions, and eventually, close branches.

“We could no longer provide the amount of books/movies/magazines/e-books that our patrons have become accustomed to nor the programs that we provide for children, teens and adults. Our patrons rely heavily on our computers, and without proper funding, we could not provide adequate technology and Internet access.”

Additionally, those funds pay the salaries of the library system’s 90 employees and fund new facilities throughout the parish. McEntee noted the new Elm Grove facility was constructed with no additional funding from taxpayers due to funding provided by the annual millage.

“I feel the support is there for the library.  The Friends of the Bossier Parish Library are supporting us and have gone door-to-door throughout the parish explaining what the library offers and asking for support. The Friends have reported back to us stating they have had nothing but positive feedback about the library and an overwhelming number of library supporters,” said McEntee.

For more information, voters can visit www.bossierlibrary.org’s Library Funding page under About. There is a Library Tax Renewal FAQ sheet which states all the facts in regards to library funding and the millage renewal. The page also contains a By the Numbers sheet showing stats from all of branches and a Library Savings Calculator that will show the retail value of those books, movies, programs or computers used throughout the year at the library.