Last Tuesday’s Cypress Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District (CBB) board meeting was dominated by discussion of the board’s plan to adjust landowner fees for folks living on Cypress Lake and Black Bayou. The board made certain that the meeting was well publicized so that landowners could be present and have an opportunity to comment.
From this viewpoint, it sure would have been helpful if more of the landowners took advantage of the monthly CBB meetings to better understand the need to adjust these fees.
The new schedule would eliminate the $4 per month fee to draw water from the lakes for lawn care, and the square-foot-based fee for structures over the water. It would impose a fee on Black Bayou of $230 for owners with a structure over the water, and $130 for those who don’t have any such structure. On Cypress, the fees would be $250 and $150 respectively.
Each owner would also receive two boat stickers ($20 each value) at no charge, and they could draw all the water they want from the lakes. The restructured fees will be effective January 2016.
About 110 of the district’s 750 lake-front landowners were present, and the majority who commented were not in favor of the new fee schedule.
Landowners raised questions about the need for the new schedule, and made suggestions about how to “better” raise revenue. Some of those suggestions included increases in public access fees such as boat launch fees and entry fees – which board member and park executive director Robert Berry noted had already been adjusted. One suggestion was to raise the user access fees to a point where fewer people would visit CBB’s public offerings; public use of the area seemed to be a problem for some landowners.
But the bottom line is that CBB finally has a board of directors whose exclusive goal is to maintain and improve the lakes and the park and to perform desperately needed repairs/maintenance on lake structures. Don Maddox, BEAST Engineering, discussed the need to provide fairly immediate stabilization to one of the spillway wing walls on Black Bayou, and he detailed a list of work that should be addressed with due speed. And it hasn’t been too many meetings ago that Maddox ticked off several maintenance issues that ought to be of concern to lakefront landowners. Many of these structures are over 40 years old.
In explaining a couple of these troublesome issues and methods to remedy them, Maddox noted that “ …they’re not hard, just expensive … $65,000 and up.”
From a budget standpoint, CBB’s 2015 budget is $1.3 million; in 1986, it was $1.4 million. Clearly, 1986 dollars don’t go as far in 2015, and aging structures and necessary maintenance make it absolutely necessary for the board to look for additional funding to meet today’s park and lake needs. Currently, $900,000 of the present budget is generated from ad valorem taxes; another $400,000 comes from park operations, including landowner fees – which were reported at last Tuesday’s meeting to currently total $68,000 per year.
Notably, it was reported that CBB area landowners generate about three percent of the $900,000 collected in property taxes; the balance, 97 percent, is paid by property owners across the parish.
The board is looking to identify additional revenue sources, as board member Alan Warren explained Tuesday, saying that the board is trying to find other ways to generate revenues outside of the ad valorem taxes. Warren said that he felt certain that keeping Cypress Black Bayou in good condition would both increase property values and get the highest return on business – and that other revenue sources such as grants would be solicited.
The board’s plan for the new revenue that would result from the new landowner fee schedule is to bank a set percentage of that revenue to create a capital improvement fund – which CBB has never previously done, and is one of the big reasons for user fee and landowner fee increases.
Most of last Tuesday’s meeting attendees seemed to be satisfied with the board’s work and explanation, and left before the meeting concluded. Some, however, seemed to look at the board as more of a homeowners association board, responsible only to the owners. In point of fact, CBB was established as a political subdivision of the state by legislative act in 1958. One each of the five board members is appointed by the City of Bossier, Bossier Parish Police Jury, Bossier Parish School Board, Town of Benton, and Bossier Levee District.
These members are responsible to the citizens of Bossier Parish – at least those who reside in the 64 (of 81) precincts that vote on the 10-year ad valorem tax that in the most part funds CBB. And for a myriad of reasons, this board is about the most diligent and dedicated in the last several years as it concerns protection of our taxpayer investment, as well as that of the CBB property owners.
Hopefully, more CBB property owners will take the time to attend board meetings and see this diligence and dedication for themselves.
Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at email@example.com