Lincoln Library Millage Set to Increase

Though no vote was taken at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ), the consensus of the body was that the property tax millage that funds the Lincoln Parish Library should be increased for the 2019 tax year to 4.65 mils, from the 2018 rate of 3.2 mils. The present millage collects about $1.5 million/year, while the 4.65 rate will collect about $2.26 million/year, according to Parish Treasurer Holly Lowry.

The rate will be formally proposed at the August meeting of the jury, and a public hearing will precede the vote. Other millages will remain at 2018 levels, Parish Administrator Courtney Hall said.

See here the complete list.

The issue generated quite a bit of discussion, and to fully understand, some background is necessary.

In the fall, 2010 tax election, a 5.99 mil library tax was approved by Lincoln Parish voters. That tax will expire next year, and will be resubmitted for voter approval. The first year after the election, it collected about $2 million, roughly in line with library expenditures.

As the parish added more taxable property, and with reassessments, a fund surplus developed. In 2014, the jury decided to trim the millage to try and keep income in line with expenditures.

In 2017 and 2018, it was trimmed again, in a effort to spend some of the fund balance, instead of taking the money from taxpayers. As of 6/30/19, that fund balance is about $2 million, a little less than one years’ operating expense. That is in line with what auditors recommend as prudent fiscal practice.

Hall explained, “The library had a very substantial fund balance, approaching $5 million. The plan was over a course of several years, to roll that millage back in order to use that fund balance and get it down to a reasonable level of approximately a year’s operating reserve. We’ve reached the point now where it’s time to stabilize that millage where they have a reasonable fund balance.”

He added, “When you were collecting 5.99, you were collecting much more than you were spending. So your fund balance was continuing to get larger and larger every year.”

Library expenditures have remained relatively stable, ranging from about $2 million in 2011 to today’s $2.4 million.

Library Director Vivian McCain and Board of Control Chair Augusta Clark suggested that the maximum 5.99 millage be levied for 2019.

A figure has to published this week in the parish’s official journal, as a thirty day notice has to be given prior to the public hearing.

Earlier in the meeting, the jury got some bad news.

Approximately $1 million in severance tax revenues from oil and gas production won’t be received this year, and maybe not for the next couple of years.

A Louisiana Department of Natural Resources program (Severance Tax Relief Program) allows “suspension or reduction of severance taxes due on production from a qualifying well for a variable time period depending on the category.”

The $1 million represents about 35% of the general fund budget, so some serious trimming will have to be done, it appears.

The general fund has a balance of about $3.8 million.

The first casualty is the $400-$500 thousand that is transferred yearly into the Courthouse Capital Fund.

That fund is nominally used for repairs to parish-owned buildings, but has also been used recently for jail repairs and horse barns.

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