Sizing Up Katrina Costs, St. Bernard Rejects Taxes

CHALMETTE, LA (AP) — In a sign of growing frustration over the cost of rebuilding their parish since Hurricane Katrina, voters in St. Bernard Parish have rejected several tax measures to pay for a number of public services.

         The rejection on Saturday of so many tax renewals, which pass in most elections, and two tax increases reflects the growing discontent over the cost of maintaining public services in what is a much smaller parish post-Katrina, as Times-Picayune’s Benjamin Alexander-Bloch reports.

         Voters also recently rejected a proposed new tax for their parish hospital.

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         On Saturday, St. Bernard voters resoundingly rejected two tax increases — one for levee maintenance and the other for street lighting — as well as 10 tax renewals for services ranging from libraries to fire protection.

         Last year, St. Bernard voters passed separate tax increases for the fire department and the sheriff's office that, when combined, added 35 mills in taxes.

         The Parish Council is expected to try placing some or all of the tax renewals rejected Saturday on a future ballot.

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         The failed 7.5-mill levee tax increase, expected to generate about $2.5 million a year, was meant to pay for the higher cost of maintaining levees built after Katrina. The federal government paid for the levee construction, but maintenance is the responsibility of local communities.

         The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East had asked for the 30-year increase for the Lake Borgne Basin Levee District. This was the first time the district had requested an increase since 1994. The increase would have raised the levee district's millage rate to 18.5 mills. That increase would have resulted in an increase of $18.75 a year for a homestead-exempt home valued at $100,000, and a $93.75 increase per year for a home worth $200,000.

         For more information

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