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|Recreation district eyes revenue sources|
The West Ouachita Recreation District is exploring ways to generate revenue to fund operations and maintenance activities for the recreation district, and it is eyeing the possible construction of recreational facilities in western Ouachita Parish.
Rep. Frank Hoffmann will introduce legislation to be considered in the upcoming Regular Session of the Legislature to allow the district to levy up to a one-third cent sales tax for funding the district's operations.
That's according to Randall McDonald. McDonald is a West Monroe businessman who is active with recreation district.
The recreation district also is looking at leveling a property tax, or millage, to fund the recreation district's activities, according to McDonald.
McDonald said the recreation district would pursue either asking voters to approve up to a one-third cent sales tax or a millage, but not both.
Voters in western Ouachita would have to approve any tax measure for the recreation district for it to be collected.
"There's really nothing on the statute for the state of Louisiana for a recreation district to be funded by a sales tax, so Dr. Hoffmann has agreed to put this forward to see if we can get that put in through the state," McDonald said.
The Ouachita Parish Police Jury appointed the board of commissioners for the recreation district in western Ouachita about six years ago.
"After six years, and a lot of studying, this is the year to move forward," McDonald said.
District officials plan to ask for letters of support from the police jury, West Monroe Board of Aldermen, West Monroe/West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce and the Monroe/West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau. The district also will visit with local media to discuss its plans for the future.
"Most people we talked to in west Ouachita would rather pay sales tax than a property tax," McDonald said. "That's why we wanted Dr. Hoffmann to present it to the Legislature to at least open the door if we choose to go that way. We're not saying we will, but it will be available to us if we choose to do it."
Money generated by any tax would be used for operational expenses of the recreation district as well as to "build a couple of parks," McDonald said.
"All we want to do is get this right, get it on the ballot and let the people who live in west Ouachita Parish decide if they want it or not," he said.
The recreation district received $50,000 in grant money some five years ago to conduct its master plan. The district never received any funding to implement it.
"We think it's a win-win for all of us if we can put it together, and here's what I like: With a sales tax, everybody pays, and it's just a little bit. Plus, about 30 percent of it comes from people out of town, and you wouldn't have that with a property tax," McDonald said.
The district expects to ask the city of West Monroe for a resolution supporting its efforts next week during the regular meeting of the board of aldermen. The district also will return to the police jury on March 17 to ask the parish for support.