BREC seeks continued funding

Voters will decide April 5 whether to extend for another 10 years the property taxes that fund East Baton Rouge Parish’s parks system.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission unanimously voted in the fall to ask voters to continue paying the 6.2 mills last approved in 2004.

The taxes make up about half of BREC’s operating budget and all funding for capital improvements.

Voters will see one proposition that contains two tax renewals: a 4.1 mill tax for capital improvements, operations and maintenance and a 2.1 mill tax that only goes toward operations and maintenance.

Combined, they are expected to generate nearly $23 million for the system.

BREC is winding down its 10-year “Imagine Your Parks” program that spurred new recreational sites and upgrades throughout the parish.

The system recently kicked off a strategic planning process that will guide the growth and maintenance of parks for the next decade.

During a recent meeting, BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight touted the system’s new strategic plan efforts and stated the case for the tax renewal.

“We’ve built several new park amenities, and we will need to continue to make sure we can take care of those facilities,” McKnight said. “That money is necessary to keep your parks operating.”

The BREC funding comes up for renewal every 10 years. For property owners, the taxes equal about $46.50 per year on a home valued at $150,000.

In April 2004, the measure passed with 74 percent of the vote.

Last year, BREC released results from a public opinion poll conducted by Southern Media & Opinion Research Inc. for the parks system.

The survey found overwhelming support for the parks system, and 73 percent of respondents said they believe BREC is spending its tax dollars wisely.

In 2004, BREC successfully passed an additional $70.5 million tax that has helped the system build 12 new community parks and make upgrades at others, but that is a separate tax and is not up for renewal until 2024.