Avoyelles voters go to the polls Saturday

Parish Health Unit tax renewal, constitutional amendments, state treasurer race

Yes, it’s squirrel season and yes there are probably a lot of garage sales out there that demand your attention. These are certainly worthwhile Saturday activities for this time of year.

In between shooting Frisky or bargaining for knick knacks this Saturday (Oct. 14), there’s another event going on at a voting precinct near you -- a somewhat dull, but still important, thing called an election.

Mail-in absentee ballots must be requested by Tuesday (Oct. 10) and received by the registrar by Oct. 13.

HEALTH UNIT TAX
The only local item on this Saturday's ballot is the renewal of a parishwide 4-mill property tax to support the Parish Health Unit operations. The tax would generate about $576,000 a year for 10 years and would be subject to Homestead Exemption -- meaning many homeowners would pay nothing.

Dr. David J. Holcombe, Office of Public Health Region VI administrator/medical director, said residents of Avoyelles Parish should know about the positive impact the health units have on them and the parish. Region VI includes Avoyelles and other Central Louisiana parishes.

Holcombe said the two health units have over 5,000 Women, Infant and Children (WIC) encounters, have 2,000 visits for services for contraception or sexually transmitted diseases, and administer over 200 vaccinations through the Vaccines for Children program.

“While most of the clients are lower income -- around 75 percent are covered by Medicaid -- we also serve citizens with other insurances as well as the totally uninsured,” Holcombe said. “Since Avoyelles Parish has around 35 percent of its citizens living in poverty, this provides a much-needed point of access to medical services.

“Second to the Rapides Health Unit, the Avoyelles Parish Health Unit is the busiest in our eight parish region, which is a testimony to the needs in this parish,” he added.

The health units fall under the state Office of Public Health and receive some state funding for their operations. However, the local property tax is needed to maintain the buildings, purchase supplies and employ support staff such as clerical and maintenance employees, Holcombe noted.

“Your health unit is the only WIC provider in the parish,” he said. “We also provide contraceptive services to over 30 percent of eligible women in the parish -- one of the highest percentages in the state.”

Holcombe credits the parish health units, and especially such widely used units as those in Avoyelles, in playing a critical role in “achieving better health outcomes in a state that is currently ranked 49 out of 50 in America’s Health Rankings.”

He noted Avoyelles’ “health outcomes” rank it 41st out of 64 parishes even though its “health factors” -- including unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking, lack of exercise, etc . -- rank it 53 out of 64.

The efforts of the parish health units have a positive effect on the outcomes and play a large role in the 12-point difference between outcomes and factors.

“Everyone in Avoyelles Parish benefits either directly or indirectly from our impact,” Holcombe continued. “We hope you will support the upcoming millage renewal.”

STATE TREASURER

Six candidates are seeking to fill the unexpired term of State Treasurer John Kennedy, who was elected to serve the state as its U.S. senator. That term runs through 2019, giving the winner of this race about two years to serve before deciding whether to seek a full four-year term in the office.

The election will cost the state approximately $5 million.

Of the six candidates, there are four Republicans, one Democrat and one Libertarian.

Political pundits have declared this a “ho-hum race” with three main contenders and three also-rans. However, a poll found 60 percent of respondents had not decided who they would vote for or if they would vote at all.

Perhaps the best known name among Avoyelleans is Neil Riser, a Republican who currently serves as state senator for some portions of northern and eastern Avoyelles.

Riser is a funeral home owner in Columbia.

Another “top contender” for the position is Angele Davis, of Baton Rouge, who is a Republican and a business consultant. She served as state budget administrator for GOP governors Mike Foster and Bobby Jindal. Whether her experience in state finances is an advantage or disadvantage is a key question in the campaign.

Political observers also give former state Rep. John Schroder a good chance at winning the position. He is a Covington businessman and former law enforcement official. Schroder, who resigned his legislative seat to seek this position, is winning the unofficial “yard sign poll” in Avoyelles at this time.

The other three candidates are: New Orleans attorney Derrick Edwards, the lone Democrat in the field; Terry Hughes, a Republican from Lafayette; and Joseph Little, the Libertarian candidate from Ponchatoula.

For a ho-hum election, the race has already had a bit of political drama.

Ron Caesar, an Opelousas accountant and civic activist, had qualified for the election as an Independent, but was removed from the ballot following a challenge from the state Board of Ethics concerning unpaid fines imposed during his unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2011.

In addition to the 2011 campaign as an Independent, he lost his race for the 5th District congressional seat in 2012 as a Libertarian. He also mounted an unsuccessful effort to recall Jindal.

So when you look at the ballot and it starts with No. 2 (Angele Davis), it’s because No. 1 (Ron Caesar) got bumped.

AMENDMENTS

All three proposed amendments affect taxes in some way.

Proposition 1 would provide a sales tax exemption on property delivered to a construction site that will become part of a building or other construction.

Proposition 2 would provide Homestead Exemption from property taxes for the total assessed value of a home of the unmarried surviving spouse of a person who died while performing their duties as an emergency medical responder, technician, paramedic, volunteer firefighter, law enforcement or fire protection officer.

Proposition 3 would dedicate any new tax on gasoline, diesel and special fuels to the Construction Subfund to be used only for “project delivery, construction and maintenance of transportation and capital transit infrastructure projects, and not for funding for the payment of employee wages and related benefits or employee retirement benefits.”

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