By David Dollar/Opinion
“The end of a Federal aid program that provided more than half the money for some municipal budgets has caused a severe financial crisis in small and medium-size cities and counties around the country and is forcing some to make hard choices between cutting services and raising taxes. The elimination of the program of general revenue sharing on Sept. 30, 1986… has prompted layoffs, curtailment of police protection and other services, and higher taxes and user fees in thousands of counties, cities and villages. Susan White, legislative assistant for the National Association of Counties, said ”It’s a major blow. There’s just no place to go, no room to maneuver.”
And so it was in 1986 around the Natchitoches Parish Police Jury board room the day they got the news of the cancellation of “Federal Revenue Sharing” that brought $2 Million per year to the parish. “There goes the General Fund”, then Parish Treasurer, the late Joann Ward, was quoted as saying at the meeting.
The bottom line is this: the taxpayers of Natchitoches parish have never paid real road taxes, and boy have we gotten what we don’t pay for. In the 70’s and 80’s, the Jury had the luxury of transferring over $1-1.5 million of the federal revenue sharing to roads each year, with no regard for how little local money the 5 mil Road District 40 took in. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what’s happened since the federal money dried up—the road system became road kill. Nobody stole any money, nobody at the library bought bookmobiles with highway money, and the department shrank from about 120 employees with good equipment to a brave band of 25 or so fighting a losing battle against time, traffic, and road degradation.
We have a chance to turn things around on November 8th by voting for DEDICATED Road Taxes just for us. For the first time, we rural folks who shop in Natchitoches also have a chance to get at least some of our taxes back—a 50/50 split of new tax revenue split evenly between city and parish residents for roads. Not a penny of our money comes back to us today. Think of it as a new “Revenue Sharing”—with each other instead of Washington. Please consider joining me in wholehearted support for saving our roads. I drive the damned alternative every day.