The Parish of Natchitoches is facing a critical situation in regard to its road and bridge maintenance program. For many years, the Parish has not had the resources to adequately repair its roads and bridges. It has reached the point where roads are barely passable for residents and damages to vehicles are a regular occurrence. Other than having a qualified workforce, the major obstacle to economic development (more jobs) in our area is the condition of our road system.
To address this problem, the Parish needs to generate additional funding for road and bridge repairs. The Parish has placed a one-half cent sales tax on the March 30, 2019 ballot for the voters’ consideration. If approved by the voters, the tax would generate approximately $1,000,000 per year. The language of the ballot measure requires the tax money to be spent on roads and bridges only. It would be illegal for it to be used for any other purpose by the Parish.
The sales tax would be collected parish-wide, except in the City of Natchitoches and the Town of Campti, both of which have tax rates that are already at the maximum allowed by law. The amount of road tax paid by each family would depend on how much the family spends on taxable items, as shown in the attached table. For example, a family that spends $30,000 per year on taxable items would pay a road sales tax of $2.88 per week, or $150.00 per year. At the same time, the family’s state sales tax is $3.17 per week, or $165.00 per year, less than it was in 2018 due to a reduction in state sales tax. In other words, the increase in local sales tax is less than the decrease in the state sales tax.
Most people are not aware that there are approximately 1000 roads in the Parish road maintenance inventory and the highway department has a total of 18 employees (including the director, secretary and shop mechanic) to take care of them. Thirty years ago, the highway department had over 100 employees to maintain basically the same mileage of roads. As costs increased faster than revenues, the Police Jury reduced the size of the department. If we are to make any improvements in our roads, we simply have to be willing to put more money into the effort.
This is not a choice of improving our roads or staying as we are. Either we will fund road improvements or the roads will continue to decline. That means that job opportunities and the quality of life for our people will suffer. Ultimately, the choice belongs to the voters.