Residents voice strong opinions about proposed sales tax at Public Hearing

Based on the opinions given at the Public Hearing held by the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) on Monday, March 8th, at the Charles H. Garrett Community Center in Jonesboro there is deep concern among the residents about the proposed one cent increase in the sales tax in the upcoming election slated for April 24th.

The hearing that began at 5:15pm and was scheduled to last fifteen minutes but lasted close to forty began with JPPJ President Amy Magee thanking those in attendance for coming to express their opinion. Magee then directed those in attendance to the information in packet that was given that showed how the ballot measure was worded followed by an explanation of why the additional funds are necessary and how it was decided the best way to accrue these funds would be through a sales tax. 

Proposal language is as follows:

Shall the Parish of Jackson, State of Louisiana (the “Parish”), be authorized to levy and collect and adopt and ordinance providing for such levy and collection, a tax of one percent (1%) (the “Tax”) (an estimated $1,850,000.00 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year) upon the sale at retail, the use, the lease or rental, the consumption, and the storage for use of consumption, tangible personal property and on sales of services in the Parish, all as defined by law, for a period of ten (10) years from July 1, 2021, with all proceeds of the tax (after paying the reasonable and necessary expenses of collecting and administering the Tax), to be dedicated and used for the purpose of waste management, jail and courthouse expansion, road construction and maintenance, and to pay any debt service requirements on bonds issued for such purpose, or any part thereof? 

This language comes directly from the Louisiana Revised Statute 47:338-173 giving the authority to the Jackson Parish Police Jury to levy a sales tax for the defined uses. While the Police Jury does not control the language of the statute, they do control the direction of the funds within these parameters. 

“No one, including me, likes to see an increase in taxes but we are in a desperate situation.Over the past five years revenues have decreased by roughly $300,000.00 while expenses to operate the solid waste department / landfill have increased,” said Magee. “After examining the best way to raise the needed money it was determined that an increase in the sales tax would be more fair as it would be more evenly spread than increasing the Ad Valorem tax.”

Magee proceeded to caution that without the additional funds the added tax would raise drastic changes would have to be made, even to the point of possibly having certain operations shut down and the landfill closed, that would have a long term detrimental effect.

“Currently the landfill allows for free drop-offs for residents and municipalities,” continued Magee. “Without these additional funds we would be forced to have to require payment in order to accept items and process what is brought. Also it should be noted that if the landfill is forced to close, which we hope won’t happen, we would not be able to reopen this at a later date and there is no where else to take these kind of things.”

The opinions expressed by those in attendance indicated that they acknowledged that an increase in the sales tax was more fair than adding to the Ad Valorem tax, which is levied annually based on the value of property owned, but didn’t agree with certain areas of the proposal. 

“I am not in support of the ten year length,” said Sarah Dark, who was first to comment. “I agree that a sales tax is more fair but the amount this would raise ($1,875,000.00) is not needed every year. One year of added tax revenue is all that is needed and I would feel better about it if the time frame would be adjusted.”

Linda Devine was next to comment and asked why additional tax money is required when there was such a surplus in funds in other departments that she felt should be able to moved to where it would be of better use. 

“The Library has over four million and the Tax Accessor has roughly ten million dollars. There is also a surplus in the Recreation Department and Sheriff’s Department,” said Devine. “Why can’t this money that is just sitting there be moved to where it would do more good? This needs to be changed. 

Devine also stated that she knew that per recorded statements made at previous meetings that two years ago the Police Jury declared that the money was there for the model bin sites and landfill and wanted to know what became of that money. 

Margaret Watts was the final to comment, raising a question about why issues regarding theft at the bin sites and people who are not residents of Jackson Parish are allowed to use the landfill for free are not being addressed.

“Jackson Parish residents are not the only ones who use the landfill and theft is constant at the bin sites, especially from the metal bins,” said Watts. “I see it all the time and usually it is the same people. There are cameras at all of these sites so why is this allowed to take place with nothing being done about it?

President Magee replied by asking Solid Waste Superintendent Robin Sessions if the cameras were being monitored to which he replied they were and tickets have been issued by the Sheriff’s Department but that was the extent of what was being done. Legal representative Darryl Avery was then asked what he knew about how this was being handled to which he replied that these tickets were misdemeanors and that didn’t fall under his jurisdiction in court proceedings so he couldn’t give an answer. 

With no further comments being offered President Magee thanked everyone for attending and expressing their opinions. the hearing was then closed. A second Public Hearing on the tax issue is scheduled for April 12th.

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