Turnout light, but BREC tax wins approval

East Baton Rouge Parish voters have extended the property tax that supports the parish parks system for 10 more years.

Turnout was light at the polls on Saturday, but 60 percent of voters supported the East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission’s tax request, according to unofficial tallies.

But turnout was light. About 17,799 people voted in the election. The parish has 277,245 registered voters.

The BREC tax — which goes toward maintenance, capital improvements and other park operations — has been approved by voters every 10 years since 1964. In 2004, the last time the BREC tax was up for renewal, it passed with 74 percent of the vote.

The 6.2-mill property tax makes up about half of BREC’s operating budget and all funding for improvements at existing parks, as well as the construction of new parks.

On the ballot, voters were asked to decide one proposition that contained 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.

For property owners, the taxes equal about $46.50 per year on a home valued at $150,000.

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

BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said Saturday night that the tax renewal vote shows strong support for the parks system.

“I never felt we would not pass the tax. I know that people are satisfied, and, for the most part, people like what we’re doing,” she said. “People like what we do, and it’s evident.”

The East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission recently outlined its plans for the 2 mills of the tax — about $7 million a year — that will go toward capital improvements. Those plans include the creation of a new community park in the southeastern part of the parish and enhancements for trails.

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

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.

A public opinion poll that BREC released last year found overwhelming support for the parks system, and 73 percent of respondents said they believed BREC spends its tax dollars wisely.