By: Paul Johnson
The Cane River Waterway Commission (CRWC) held a special called meeting to address and discuss Senate Bill 240, which was introduced by Senator Gerald Long in the current Legislative session. Mr. Jim Rhodes, CRWC Chairman, opened the discussion on Senate Bill 240, which would allow up to 3 mils of a 6 mil property tax levied by the CRWC to be placed in the Parish’s road fund to provide money for repairs to our roads. President Rick Nowlin, who spoke at this meeting, advised that Senate Bill 240 has been deferred by Senator Gerald Long, the author of the bill, to give the Parish Government and the CRWC time to try to work out a cooperative endeavor agreement without this legislation. Mr. Nowlin advised the CRWC that even if they agreed to do this, the final word on the transfer of funds would be up to the Commission. All sides agreed that they would need a legal opinion to make sure this transfer would be legal.
This 6 mil parish-wide property tax raises approximately 2 million dollars a year for the CRWC, which has approximately $9 million in reserves and $5 million left in expenses to finish the pump station on Red River. The millage rate is set by the CRWC and can be raised or lowered as they see fit.
During this meeting, Mr. Nowlin pointed out that 5000 households pay property taxes on their homes which is about half the homes in the parish and the other half is exempted because their valuation is less than the homestead exemption, which has limited the ability of the Parish Government to raise enough revenue to maintain its roads. Cane River Waterway Commissioner Larry Paige suggested to Mr. Nowlin that it may be easier to go to the Natchitoches Parish Library Board since it is already under the Parish Government. Several attendees at the meeting expressed strong reservations about diverting dollars that are collected to maintain the Cane River, which they said was in need of much maintenance.
So I guess the question that all citizens of Natchitoches Parish are going have to answer is, “What are we going to do to provide the resources to maintain our roadways?” I believe now is the time to look at all these agencies that collect tax dollars and ask ourselves which is more important, roads or what service the agencies provide. This does not mean we have to defund these agencies, but it does mean that we need to free up some of these revenues and redirect these tax dollars to our roads and we can do this without raising taxes.