Last-minute controversy over proposed taxes in Avoyelles Parish

Political leaders disagree over whether new sales tax, property millage are necessary
Recent controversy has played out in Avoyelles Parish over two tax measures, leading to last-minute disagreement among parish leaders and residents.
Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 5:43 PM CST
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AVOYELLES PARISH, La. (KALB) - With election day tomorrow and early voting having already passed, the hope is that most voters are already informed on what decisions they will make when filling out their ballots. However, recent controversy has played out in Avoyelles Parish over two tax measures, leading to last-minute disagreement among parish leaders and residents.

On the Nov. 8 primary election ballot, Avoyelles Parish residents will vote on a 7-mill property tax and 1/4 cent perpetual sales and use tax, both dedicated taxes for the solid waste program.

APPJ expressed concern over whether the program’s residential garbage pickup could continue without the taxes. In a preview of the measures with News Channel 5 in March, Kevin Bordelon, the Avoyelles Parish civil works director, said the parish has “pinched pennies for the last 25 years.”

Currently, a 3/4 cent sales tax contributes to the operation of residential garbage pickup. However, the current contract with the company that conducts pickup, which is just over $2,000,000, is set to expire at the end of this year. A new, 5-year contract with the company will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, with at least a $1,000,000 increase in price.

Due to the rise in contract cost, the rising cost of living and continued concern over the impact of inflation, APPJ decided to put two new taxes on the ballot to make up for the difference in cost.

“I think one of the first questions that came out was, ‘A tax? People are not gonna be for it.’ And we know that,” said APPJ President Kirby Roy. “There’s gonna be opposition.”

That certainly was the case, most recently on Nov. 3, when State Rep. Daryl Deshotel (R-District 28) expressed his opinion on the proposed taxes.

After attending a presentation on the proposed taxes and having been approached by concerned Avoyelles Parish residents, Deshotel began to dig into the financial reports of APPJ’s solid waste program.

“The police jury publically said that [...] if one of the taxes failed, either one of them, that they would not have any more residential garbage pickup in Avoyelles Parish,” said Deshotel. “Okay. So, when they did that, the public became very concerned. They really like their garbage pickup.”

In figures provided during police jury presentations, for 2022, the total revenue from the solid waste program’s current taxes is $3.25 million. The solid waste expenses are projected to be nearly $3.7 million.

The police jury projected a 2022 deficit of $445,000, which they say would more than double in 2023 when the contract increases by $750,000.

Deshotel obtained the financial reports from 2018 to September 2022, comparing the projections to the data.

One of the first details he noticed was that the solid waste revenue of the current taxes each year since 2018 has only steadily increased almost every year.

  • 2018: $3,250,915.00
  • 2019: $3,339,245.00
  • 2020: $3,852,061.00
  • 2021: $4,478,263.00
  • 2022 Annualized: $4,309,637.00

In fact, according to Deshotel, the projected solid waste revenue for the end of 2022 is around $4.3 million, not $3.25 million as estimated by APPJ.

Deshotel added that the solid waste fund has never been in a deficit in the last five years. Plus, the $5.9 million cash balance currently in the APPJ solid waste fund has been about the same for the past eight years.

“Six months of your expenses, if you have that cash, that’s kind of like the gold standard,” said Deshotel. “I mean, that’s what people strive to do. But in this case, they have over eight years of expenses.”

Further, Deshotel broke down what a 1/4 cent tax would generate for the program. APPJ projected a new 1/4 cent sales tax would bring in $900,000, with the 3/4 cent tax bringing in $3.4 million. However, Deshotel said if the numbers are proportional, the new 1/4 cent tax would have to bring in well over $900,000.

  • 2018: $1,083,638.00
  • 2019: $1,113,275.00
  • 2020: $1,283,978.00
  • 2021: $1,492,421.00
  • 2022 Annualized: $1,482,694.00

Despite what Deshotel has pointed out, Roy stands by the police jury’s “safe” projections, saying it is better to have too much than too little.

Roy claims one of the reasons for the increase is the influx of spending due to recent stimulus checks and internet collections, both of which have added to sales tax revenue.

“Yes, there’s gonna be a surplus. Taxes are higher this year than what they are the last five years,” said Roy. “That might have been miscalculations. But this started a year ago and we had to make projections.”

Roy credits the projections to the uncertainty of inflation, noting that they began forecasting a drop in solid waste revenue and a new tax was their way of addressing the less-than-optimistic forecast.

Since introducing the proposed taxes, Roy has spoken out against those who have taken to social media opposing the proposals and speculating over the intent the APPJ has in asking voters to approve them.

“I’m looking at Facebook and the public thinks that we’re gonna be stealing money,” explained Roy. “We don’t steal money. We have some of the best audit reports in the state. We’re not in here to steal money and put money in our pockets.”

Ultimately, Roy believes the police jury made the “right move” in asking for voter approval on two new taxes.

“Maybe we’re not exact on our figures, but we follow recommendations and suggestions, and we went through this for months and months, and I just think we made the right decision,” said Roy. “I think both taxes need to pass in order to have that cushion for years to come.”

Deshotel believes neither tax is necessary and has asked APPJ to back off its “all-or-nothing” stance on the tax proposals.

“There’s only so much that people are willing to pay,” said Deshotel. “I don’t want to overtax on something like the garbage, and not be able to pass a tax, let’s just say, for the sheriff’s office or teacher pay raises or roads, which we desperately need.”

In a weekly update from APPJ sent out Sunday, Nov. 6, Roy told constituents, stakeholders and members of the media:

“With two days to the election, it’s up to the voters. I have a special meeting set to discuss avenues the jury will take based on the election results. Personally, I would like to see both taxes pass. If one passes, with the surplus, we might be able to squeeze by for a couple of more years. Most of this depends on the solid waste contract the Parish will be faced with in the next two months. The APPJ is not gambling with the public’s money and we sure will not gamble with the solid waste contract. When it is all said and done, it will be what it is and decisions will need to be made. My main focus will be what is right for the Parish.”

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