School, COA taxes renewed; one fails

The Ascension Parish School Board and Ascension Council on Aging both kept large chunks of their budgets last week when parish voters approved property tax renewals for the two entities.

The School Board saw three taxes totaling 33 mills renewed, while voters continued the Council on Aging’s 1.5-mill tax that accounts for more than four-fifths of the agency’s budget.

Meanwhile, voters in the parish’s Fire Protection District 1, which consists of roughly 70,000 residents on the east bank outside of Gonzales and Prairieville, rejected a 15-mill property tax and parcel fees that would have funded a full-time fire department for the district.

Approximately 75 percent of voters approved of the three School Board tax renewals, which were earmarked for teacher salaries, technology and facilities. All three taxes passed with more than 7,500 votes in favor and fewer than 2,600 against. However, the unofficial turnout for the elections was approximately 14 percent.

Still, Superintendent Patrice Pujol lauded the citizens who did get out to vote in favor of renewing the three taxes for another 10 years.

Pujol said their passage showed that residents “expressed appreciation of our dedicated teachers and staff members who work tirelessly for the betterment of our children. We are indeed blessed to have parents and a community that supports the ongoing work of our staff.”

The fire tax failed after receiving just 2,411 votes, or 42 percent, compared with 3,346 against the measure, which was expected to generate about $4 million annually to outfit full-time firefighters and upgrade the six existing stations. Unofficial turnout in that election was slightly more than 16 percent.

The Council on Aging’s tax renewal passed with 6,558 votes, or 65 percent, for the tax and 3,476 against. Like the School Board taxes, unofficial turnout was around 14 percent.

Darlene Schexnayder, the Council on Aging’s executive director, said its property tax generates $1.28 million annually, accounting for approximately 83 percent of the agency’s budget, including all programming and capital purchases.

That funding is used to provide a number of services to elderly residents of the parish. Those services include wellness programs, recreation activities, utility assistance, transportation, housekeeping, home delivery of meals and meals at senior centers in Gonzales and Donaldsonville.

Schexnayder added the millage renewal will also allow the Council on Aging to move forward with its plans to renovate and expand the Gonzales Senior Center. The Ascension Parish Council already has approved of the project, and plans are being finalized by an architect before moving forward to a bid process.

“I’m just very thrilled that the citizens of Ascension Parish have decided to renew the millage tax for us to be able to continue the services that we provide to the senior citizens of Ascension Parish,” she said. “This millage was very important to be able to continue those services for the frail seniors who receive meals in their home and the more vibrant seniors who come out to the senior centers to participate in wellness activities and recreational activities.”