By Ida B. Torn
As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m not a “born and raised” resident of Natchitoches Parish. I’ve come and gone and have come again. I’ve lived inside the limits of the City of Natchitoches, on its outskirts and in rural parts of the Parish. I’m a native of Louisiana but have lived in other states. I have found in my conversations with other people who are transplants to Natchitoches Parish that the property tax rates paid in this Parish are the lowest they’ve ever paid. Like me, they are also somewhat befuddled by the age-old Hatfield and McCoy battle going on between rural residents and residents of the City.
As expected, my last article drew ire from some folks who regularly voice their frustrations with everything Parish. One post in particular complains about the rural taxpayer’s money being spent on the multi-million dollar riverbank improvement project which is being funded in part by the Cane River Waterway Commission (“CRWC”). This observation is 100% spot on. Yes, we are overpaying into the Cane River Waterway! The CRWC is funded by a Parish-wide tax that was forced onto its residents by the State Legislature in 1982. The Commission is allowed by law to adjust its millage rate to as much as 6 mils. The CRWC votes annually what rate its millage will be for the coming year. The CRWC holds its regular monthly meetings on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 6:00 PM at its offices located at 244 Cedar Bend in Natchez. I provide this information because the post mentioned above did not point out that Parish President Rick Nowlin had been working with Senator Gerald Long who introduced Senate Bill 240 (see below) that would have allowed the Parish Government to receive up to 3 mil of the CRWC’s ad valorem tax each year for the sole purpose of improving Parish roads. The CRWC, upon learning of the proposed legislation, called a special meeting on March 31 to address the impact of the potential changes. Mr. Nowlin addressed the CRWC and impressed upon them the need for the Parish to first look for ways to reallocate tax revenues before asking its residents to pay additional taxes (Click – NPJ coverage of meeting). There wasn’t one single rural resident present at the meeting to support the Parish’s efforts to push the reallocation through legislation. The CRWC was vehemently against the legislation and it was dropped from consideration in the 2016 regular session. The Parish and CRWC have since obtained an Attorney General Opinion (see link below) which outlines what criteria must be met in order for the CRWC to fund road projects within the Parish. The Opinion provides a very narrow path for funding of Parish road projects by the CRWC.
Now, let’s get back to the issue of the City vs. Rural argument. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they resent that they pay all of their sales taxes inside the City of Natchitoches and get no benefit from it. There are 8 other municipalities in the Parish, 4 of which also have their own sales tax (see below). Do you ever ask those municipalities why they don’t contribute a portion of their sales tax revenues to the Parish for road repairs? After all, it is the Parish Department of Public Works who maintains the roads in all 8 of those municipalities. Some people say that they now shop in Sabine or Winn Parish in protest. Okay, good for you, but you still aren’t supporting a tax base that will get your roads fixed.
It’s time to let go of the animosity and join forces for the better of the Parish. This year, City of Natchitoches residents have a chance to approve a tax that will provide funds that will directly support maintenance of the rural roads of the Parish and also provide funds for improvements to their own road system. Please consider voting for the upcoming sales tax initiatives on the November 8 ballot.
The Natchitoches Parish Journal received this submission. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal. If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to NPJNatLa@gmail.com.
Attorney General Opinion Click Here -> Opinion 16-0070