By Parish President Rick Nowlin
If you ask people across the Parish what the top priority for Parish government is, the overwhelming majority would tell you it would be to keep the Parish roads in good repair. If you look at the amount of taxes dedicated to the road system by the voters, you get a different answer.
The amount of property tax revenues dedicated to our Parish road system is only about 3.7 percent of the total property tax revenues collected by all Parish agencies. As one can see from the chart on page 3A, the actual tax dollars dedicated to the Parish road system represent only a small fraction (3.7 percent) of the total taxes paid by our businesses and residents. None of the funds dedicated to the other agencies (over $28 million) can be used by the Parish highway department.
This does not mean that the tax dollars going to the other agencies are not being spent on valuable services for the Parish. It simply means that the people, by their votes in tax elections, have been willing to fund the other agencies but not the Parish highway department. There may have been good reasons for not funding the highway department in the past, but that is no longer the case.
The Parish, under the new Home Rule Charter government, has worked hard to address the road repair issue. Its decisions on what roads to work and what work to do is based upon the road condition and its impact on public safety, the number of homes and businesses along the road, daily traffic counts, school locations and the funds available. In addition, the Parish is working with other public bodies to improve our roads.
The state recently funded 75 percent of the work on the Coco Bed Road improvements and is willing to do the same on other Parish roads. The problem is that the Parish must come up with a 25 percent cost share on the road projects and that is a real problem. The proposed road tax would provide funds to move some of these projects forward.
The Parish also received major financial assistance from the Red River Waterway Commission to convert Hampton Road from a gravel road to a new asphalt roadway. The Commission assisted the Parish because it improved access to the Commission’s marina on Red River. Until the voters understand the need for additional funds and vote to provide them, the Parish road system will continue to deteriorate.
If the people truly want better roads, it is time to provide the resources needed to do the job.