This letter to the editor reflects the opinions of its authors, five Caddo Parish commissioners. Their names are at the end of the letter.
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As fiscal conservatives serving on the Caddo Parish Commission, each of us works hard to try to ensure that the Caddo Parish Commission manages its finances responsibly.
In recent years, we each voted to discontinue automatic pay raises for commissioners, to discontinue participation in the Caddo Employee Retirement Program by commissioners, and to dramatically scale back the travel policy for commissioners. These changes have saved the taxpayers money.
In addition, on nearly a weekly basis, we work hard to minimize the legislation proposed by some of our fellow commissioners for new programs or initiatives that will expand the role of parish government. We believe that the activities and expenditures of the Caddo Parish Commission should closely adhere to the Commission Charter, with the vast majority of expenditures being directed toward one of the five primary responsibilities of the commission: Public Works (Roads & Bridges), Parish Facilities (Courthouse, Caddo Correctional Center, etc.), Juvenile Justice (Detention & Probation), Animal & Mosquito Control, and Parks & Recreation.
And, in nearly every commission work session, we work hard to keep the attention and resources of the commission focused on these core activities.
Given that each of these five activities is core to the mission of the commission, over the years the citizens of Caddo Parish have assigned millages (i.e., dedicated property taxes) to these activities in order to ensure that each is properly funded.
One such millage — the one supporting Parish Parks & Recreation — is currently up for renewal and will be on your ballot Tuesday, Nov. 6. We support the renewal of this millage, and we hope that you will too.
The parish maintains 1,200 acres of parks and recreational areas across the parish. There are 14 picnic areas, 10 playgrounds, six boat ramps, four boat docks, 3 fishing piers and miles of nature trails.
Some of the real gems include the Earl G. Williamson Park near Oil City, with its beautiful picnic grounds and access to Caddo Lake; the Walter B. Jacobs Nature Park outside of Blanchard, with wooded trails and a bird sanctuary; and the Eddie Jones Park near Keithville, with an abundance of trails perfect for running, hiking or horseback riding.
In addition, each year the Parks & Recreation staff hosts numerous programs designed to educate, entertain and provide a safe refuge for our residents. These parks and recreational areas are a real asset to our parish. They help to attract and retain residents, and they must be preserved.
The Parks & Recreation millage, if approved for renewal, will generate approximately $1.4 million in revenue and will cover 98 percent of the cost of maintaining these parks and associated programs. The proposed millage is being held steady at a very modest 0.83 mills, resulting in less than $20 per year in property taxes for the majority of homeowners in the parish. We view this as a very good return on your tax dollar.
Some will argue that the parish has plenty of money in reserves, and that these reserves should be used to pay the annual operating cost of the Parks & Recreation Department. While this argument has some merit, fiscal prudence dictates that annual expenditures should be covered by dedicated annual revenue, and that reserves should be held for unexpected expenditures and one-time capital costs. In the last three years alone, the parish has utilized its reserve funds to cover unexpected expenditures associated with flooding along the Red River, tornado damage in Allendale and North Caddo, and the unanticipated need to replace the locks on each cell door at the Caddo Correctional Center.
Holding reserves to cover unexpected expenditures is fiscally responsible, but using reserves to cover ongoing annual expenses is not.
Please join us on Nov. 6 in voting to support the renewal of the Parish Parks & Recreation millage.
Commissioner Douglas “Doug” Dominick (R), Caddo Parish Commission District 1,
Commissioner Mike Middleton (R), Caddo Parish District 8,
Commissioner John E. Atkins (R), Caddo Parish Commission District 9,
Commissioner Mario Chavez (R), Caddo Parish Commission District 10,
Commissioner Jim Smith (R), Caddo Parish Commission District 11
Article Originally Posted on ShreveportTimes.com – November 5, 2018