By Ida B. Torn
March 25th offered the chance for a large segment of Natchitoches Parish residents to voice their opinion and only a paltry 14.8% of them seized the opportunity. I must admit that I was very surprised when the final election results showed that all four ad valorem tax initiatives passed with sizeable margins. So, I’m left to ask just what was the message being sent by the voters?
While it is painfully obvious that voter apathy continues to be a problem for our Parish, voter turnout actually increased over the last time the taxes were up for renewal on July 21, 2007, by about 60% across the board. Does the fact that I find those numbers impressive mean that my expectations are way too low?
In the span of 10 years, the support for the Library tax slipped from 81% to 67%. Does that mean that there was opposition in 2007 but no one cared enough to turn out to voice their opposition? Or did the overspending on the Campti branch start to tip the scale in the other direction? Or was it the campaign of the rural residents to have the taxes realigned between the Library and the road system that sparked the decline?
The Health Unit tax saw the biggest slide in support with a 16% decrease. Was the decrease due to the fact that most residents appeared not to know that the Health Unit tax has been supporting the expense of inmate housing for many years now or was it because there aren’t enough people in our Parish who understand just how vital the Health Unit is to our Parish?
The most hotly contested tax renewal on the ballot was for Road District 40, which saw a 13% decrease in support. It was the one tax that I felt most confident would fail considering all of the negative talk on social media. It just goes to show that, in order to accomplish a goal, you must be well organized and have a concentrated campaign. Clearly, the folks who wanted a realignment in the taxes were lacking in both and the majority of voters had less confidence in their plan than what they do the Parish Government.
In breaking down the 2017 election results and comparing them to the 2007 results, one message seems to come through loud and clear – the chasm between the “rural” Parish dwellers and the “urban” Parish dwellers is growing and the Parish Government needs to get to work on regaining the confidence of all Parish residents.