BR area voters to decide tax proposals, runoffs

Four parishes in the Baton Rouge area, including East Baton Rouge Parish, are asking voters to come to the polls Saturday to consider property taxes that fund public schools.

Also, voters in East Baton Rouge Parish are being asked to renew taxes for both the East Side and District 6 fire departments. In Central, Jason Ellis and incumbent Ralph Washington face each other in a runoff to fill the fifth — and only remaining vacant — seat on the City Council.

Ellis and Washington ran in the April 5 election, which also featured the successful renewal of property taxes for BREC. That election generated a roughly 7 percent turnout

East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters Elaine Lamb would not predict turnout this Saturday within the parish but said it could be even lower than last month’s election. She recalled a similar election in July 2007 when the ballot featured tax renewals for public schools and two fire protection districts. The turnout that day? Less than 5 percent, she said.

She said she hopes people will vote but said some residents may take advantage of the weather and head to festivals instead.

“That plays a role,” she acknowledged.

Early voting for Saturday’s election was light, a total of 1,164 votes in East Baton Rouge. Lamb said 774 people voted in person in early voting, which ended April 26, and 390 more submitted absentee ballots as of Friday afternoon.

A total of 253,233 people are eligible to vote in Saturday’s elections in East Baton Rouge Parish, a figure that includes about 23,333 voters in Central but excludes voters in Baker and Zachary.

In three other area parishes, voters are being asked to increase their property tax bills.

In Livingston Parish, Walker area voters in Bonding District No. 4 will decide whether to raise their property taxes to generate about $25 million to pay for facility improvements at Walker High School.

In West Feliciana Parish, voters will consider adopting a new 14-mill property tax, which would raise about $3.8 million a year for teacher recruitment efforts and to increase course offerings, update facilities and stabilize the system’s finances.

Tangipahoa Parish entered a federal desegregation order in 2010 that requires the School Board to maintain several magnet programs throughout the parish, including those in Hammond. A tax used to fund Hammond’s programs has expired, but voters narrowly rejected in May 2013 a proposal to institute a new tax. On Saturday, Tangipahoa voters are being asked to approve a 10-year, 15-mill property tax that would generate $3.6 million a year for those programs.