Our Views: Support growth with renewals

Our election day on Oct. 19 will not be a big election, in the sense that last year’s presidential contest was and next year’s U.S. Senate contest will be. But it’s still a busy election day, with a large number of local tax propositions on many ballots around the region and the state.

The most high-profile contest on this month’s ballot in Louisiana is probably the special election for a new member of Congress from Louisiana. The sprawling 5th District covers a lot of north Louisiana but runs down the Mississippi River to the parishes north of Baton Rouge, and then across to Washington Parish on the Northshore.

Voters will name a replacement for U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, a Republican, who resigned to accept a job in state government. A slew of candidates, including state lawmakers and a former congressman, will run in the primary, with a runoff likely.

Local ballots across the state will decide smaller offices or requests for new taxes, or tax renewals. Early voting begins Oct. 5 to Oct. 12 except for Sunday.

We urge voters to look at tax renewals with a predisposition to favor them. There are several propositions on the Oct. 19 ballot that are particularly significant for continued progress in Baton Rouge and the capital region. Here are our recommendations in these key elections.

Sheriff’s Office millage: Yes

One of the key property taxes that supports operations of the sheriff’s office is up for renewal. It is a 6.9-mill property tax that generates less than $25 million a year.

That funding is vital for the operations of the office, paying for about 30 percent of the day-to-day payroll and activities. Voters have wisely renewed the tax in previous elections, and we hope that they will do so again.

As Sheriff Sid Gautreaux has said, this is no time to cut back on the deputies that help protect citizens. And this renewal is no increase, despite the larger demands on the office during the 10 years since it was last renewed.

Emergency Medical Services: Yes

A renewal of a significant millage for operations of Emergency Medical Services in East Baton Rouge Parish should be approved by voters. The 3.13-mill property tax pays almost half of the EMS operating budget, which funds 12 stations throughout the parish. This has been supported by the public since 1984. We commend the work of the EMS crews and urge voters to continue to support them with this 10-year renewal.

Central Fire Department: Yes

Voters in Central’s fire district will decide on renewal of a 10-mill tax for the Central Fire Department. Renewed every 10 years since the creation of the department in 1985, the millage is critical to paying for operations. The fire district operates five stations and responds to about 3,000 emergencies a year. This is a vital public service that requires taxpayer support.

Livingston mosquito control: Yes

With cases of West Nile virus on the rise, it makes sense for local governments to fund effective anti-mosquito programs. In Livingston Parish, a $30-a-year fee was set for households and businesses with electricity service. Such parcel fees have been problematic around the country, and Livingston officials say the fee has been difficult to collect. The 3-mill property tax on the Oct. 19 ballot would replace the fee and provide stable and predictable funding for the parish’s mosquito abatement program.

Those pesky, and dangerous, mosquitoes do not respect city or parish boundary lines. So it is vital that Livingston join with East Baton Rouge and Tangipahoa parishes to fight the bite.