Water district tax renewal up

Residents who live in the Bayou Lafourche Freshwater District face a property tax proposition on the Dec. 8 ballot that, if approved, would continue providing operating funds for the district.

Bayou Lafourche is a distributary of the Mississippi River running about 106 miles from its mouth at Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish through Assumption Parish until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico at Port Fourchon in Lafourche Parish. The water district maintains the pumping stations that push water into the bayou, said Hugh Caffery, the district’s board chairman.

More than 300,000 people get their drinking water from the bayou, Caffery said.

The 20-year, 2.11-mill property tax renewal would provide the district with approximately $2.1 million per year in revenue. Archie P. Chaisson Jr., the water district’s director, said the tax revenue makes up approximately 80 percent of the district’s annual budget, with the remaining 20 percent coming from user fees.

“If we were to have to cut back for lack of funding, it’d be dire straights around here as far as drinking water,” Chaisson said.

Early voting for the election began on Nov. 24 and will continue through Dec. 1. Residents in Ascension, Assumption and Lafourche parishes will vote on the proposition.

If passed, the tax would renew in 2014 and run through 2033, and the revenue would be used for personnel costs, operating expenses, construction and maintenance in the district.

Caffery said the district’s leadership has been working to improve the district, beginning with a 5-mile dredging project completed two years ago to clean up silt in the bayou.

In addition, he said, the district has secured two $20 million grants to pay for projects and completed a master plan that showed a need for $95 million during the next 30 years to maintain the bayou as a “robust resource” in the region.

“We are aggressively looking for ... ways to fund our master plan,” Caffery said.

Chaisson said that, historically, residents in the region have been willing to renew the property tax because they’ve understood its importance to them.

“They don’t think about us until something negative happens,” he said.