Despite 1-vote April 5 defeat, no plan to put Nutrition Kitchen tax back on ballot

St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel has no plans to put a tax proposal back on the ballot to build a kitchen for parish social service programs unless the public asks for one after a similar tax failed by one vote April 5.

The proposed Nutrition Kitchen would have supplied food to children in Head Start and other parish programs for the elderly and the developmental disabled.

The proposed 10-year, 1.25-mill property tax failed 538-539, with 7 percent turnout.

“He said there are no future plans unless there’s an interest from the community,” said Melissa Wilkins, parish government spokeswoman, on Tuesday. Roussel was not immediately available for comment.

St. James Parish Clerk of Court Edmond Kinler Jr. said the deadline to challenge the election results passed Monday with no challenge filed.

An earlier check of the electronic voting machines showed no discrepancies, Kinler said.

“There was no overwhelming support in any particular area or no overwhelming opposition in any particular area,” he said.

Two tax renewals, including one for the parish Human Resources Department, which oversees the programs the proposed kitchen would have benefited, did pass on April 5.

The failed Nutrition Kitchen tax would have raised $611,000 annually and paid for the construction of a kitchen in Vacherie to supply St. James Parish’s elderly and Head Start programs and the St. James ARC.

The millage would have cost $6.25 more per year in property tax on a $125,000 home, the parish assessor has said.

Wilkins said that without the kitchen tax, participants in the parish programs will be fed as they are now. While that means children in Head Start and the parish elderly will still have cooked meals under parish contracts, the intellectually and developmentally disabled at St. James ARC will have to bring their meals, Wilkins said.

Councilman Ken Brass said the driving forces behind the property tax were senior citizens’ complaints about the food from the elderly program’s vendor and because those in ARC had to bring their meals.

Brass said he has not spoken with Roussel or other council members but would like to see the tax put back on the ballot.

Wilkins said the parish elderly program has a contract with a vendor approved by the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs. The food meets the requirements of senior nutritional meal programs.

The Head Start program, which is set up on public school campuses in St. James but is run through the parish, has a contract with the School Board to supply food, Wilkins said.

Councilman Jason Amato said the kitchen would have given senior citizens more local food options and may have resulted in savings for the parish. But he said he agrees with Roussel’s position.

“It’s a moot issue to me,” said Amato, who represents the Lutcher-area.

St. James Parish Schools Superintendent Alonzo “Lonnie” Luce said the students in Head Start, who are housed at Lutcher, 5th Ward and 6th Ward elementary schools, will continue to receive food from those schools’ kitchens.

“We didn’t quite understand why they were doing that anyway,” Luce said.