Disagreement Over Resurrecting Health Unit Tax

LIVINGSTON, LA (AP) — Livingston Parish leaders disagree how best to resurrect a failed proposal to fund the parish health unit.

         Parish voters last week rejected a proposition to renew the health unit's 10-year, 5-mill property tax with 57 percent voting "no," less than a week after Parish Council Chairman Ricky Goff tells The Advocate’s Heidi R. Kinchen and Steve Hardy the council should set aside the vote because the ballot measure grossly underestimated the amount of revenue it would generate.

         Parish President Layton Ricks wants to correct the multimillion-dollar mistake but otherwise leave the measure untouched for now. He said the parish could later work with the state to see what other programs, like animal control or mosquito abatement, might be funded through the health unit.

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         Goff wants to scale back the millage request and pair it with a second proposition to fund the parish's animal control program, while cutting the total tax residents would pay.

         Health units are collaborations between parishes and the state. They provide and fund state and federal programs, but parishes can operate their own health initiatives through local funding.

         Local public health funding has supported programs such as animal control, mosquito abatement, prisoner medical care and a coroner's office in a variety of parishes, said J.T. Lane, assistant secretary with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Those programs are run by parish employees, but DHH can offer advice, such as asking a state scientist to help plan mosquito abatement.

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         Funding also has been granted to federally qualified health centers and local nonprofits that provide shelter for victims of domestic abuse and counseling for people struggling with substance abuse.

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