St. Bernard Parish Citizens Vote to Keep 79 Fire Fighters on the Job
December 12, 2012 – St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, voters passed a 10-year 20-millage property tax to maintain the current level of fire service. Without the millage, 79 St. Bernard Parish Local 1468 fire fighters and half of the parish’s fire stations would have been on the chopping block to offset a multi-million budget shortfall.
The millage will bring in about $6 million annually. “We are very pleased with the outcome of the December ballot,” says Local 1468 President Troy Serigne. “Because parish voters stood with us, we can continue to do what we do best – protecting and serving our citizens.”
In October, the St. Bernard Parish Council introduced a 2013 budget that called for drastic cuts, a large portion coming from the Parish Fire Department. However, in a last ditch effort to save essential services, the council agreed to put some tax proposals on the December ballot, including the 10-year 20-millage property tax exclusively for the fire service.
“Not just for our jobs, but for public safety, it was crucial that this millage pass,” says Serigne. Local 1468 fire fighters already respond with just two fire fighters per apparatus out of 10 fire stations. Without the millage, half of the parish’s fire stations would likely have closed, causing emergency response delays up to 20 minutes and other public safety risks.
To get the word out to the voters, Local 1468 fire fighters placed ads in the local newspaper and encouraged citizens to get out and vote.
The fire tax adds about $90 to the annual tax bill of a $120,000 home and $250 to the tax bill of a $200,000 home. If the millage had not passed, the Property Insurance Association of Louisiana (PIAL) would have likely increased the parish’s risk rating from a 3 to a 7 because of the increased public safety risk resulting from the fire service reductions.
“That would have equated to a 40 percent home owners insurance increase which would have meant a lot more than $90 or $250 a year for parish home owners,” says Serigne. “This fact really resonated with voters.”
After 10 years, parish citizens will have the option to renew the millage.