Opinion: Vote for Bossier City’s safety depts. on March 28

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Bossier City’s Saturday, March 28, 2015 property tax renewal election may be one of the better kept secrets recently. Sadly the voter turnout is very likely to reflect that circumstance, along with the fact that most city voters aren’t aware of the importance of the estimated $7 million funding to the city’s Police and Fire Departments resulting from the renewal of these taxes.

A little history concerning these millages …

On November 18, 1995, over 11,000 Bossier City voters turned out to overwhelmingly approve two public safety ad valorem taxes.  At that time, these two property taxes were 10.47 mills and 3.4 mills, and were approved nearly 75 percent and 70 percent respectively.

On April 17, 2004, these millages were up for a renewal vote.  Less than 10 percent of city voters, fewer than 3,000 voters, turned out to cast ballots.  The 10.47 mill property tax renewal passed 57 percent to 43 percent; the 3.4 mill property tax was renewed  by a 59 to 41 percent vote.

These millages were renewed for a term of 10 years.  As the current term ends this year, the March 28 election is for the term 2016 to 2025.  These two millages are the only items on the ballot.

As most Bossier City residents should know, the Bossier City Council has consistently “rolled back” city property tax millages over the years.  Therefore, voters will be casting ballots on the renewal of an 8.45 millage and a 2.75 millage, instead of the higher millages cited above, and reflecting a reduction in both.

Collections from the 8.45 millage is estimated to be $4.9 million per year, while receipts from the 2.75 millage is estimated to be $1.5 million annually.  While these sums contribute to funding the operation and maintenance of the city’s public safety departments, the majority of funding comes from sales tax revenue.  For 2015, the Bossier City Fire’s 2015 operating budget is $13.4 million; the Police’s 2015 operating budget is $18.3 million.

Clearly, neither millage is a new tax – both are long-standing and very necessary revenue sources for the city’s public safety departments.

Renewal of these two property tax millages should be a no-brainer for voters. But recent election outcomes are worrisome for those of us who appreciate public services such outstanding city fire and police departments.

We also appreciate public libraries, but in last November’s Bossier Parish 7.57 mill renewal for the parish’s public library system, the renewal barely passed with a 50.74 percent to 49.26 percent vote.  Just a few votes could have shuttered Bossier Parish’s entire library system. A vote to levy a small millage to provide secure funding for the Bossier Council on Aging failed.

A growing sentiment among many voters is to simply say “no” to taxes of any kind, apparently including those that fund libraries.  Also a growing concern is the number of disinterested citizens who aren’t engaged in the civic process.  Bossier City voters who fit either of the above categories may want to consider just what public services they’re willing to do without.

In the meantime, those who believe that citizen education and participation in the process to ensure our pubic safety departments are adequately funded will be the most compelling reason to visit a voting precinct on Saturday, March 28, 2015.

Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at martycarlson1218@gmail.com