DALLAS — Voters in East Baton Rouge Parish may have their third chance in 30 months to decide on taxes to support a bond package similar to one that has been rejected twice.
Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden said Wednesday that he would ask the Metropolitan Council to set an election, possibly in April 2011, that would be at least $250 million less than the $901 million measure defeated in November 2009. Voters turned down a $989 million bond proposal in November 2008.
Holden declined to provide details of his plan, but said it would not include a $225 million riverfront development that had been part of both the earlier bond proposals.
Holden, chief executive of the combined government that includes Baton Rouge, said the bond measure would focus on badly needed infrastructure projects. He said the city and parish roads and drainage systems are deteriorating because voters have not approved infrastructure improvement bonds since the 1960s.
“Hopefully, we can keep it like it was before, lean and mean, and address the issues that have been neglected for 50 years,” Holden said.
He said several of the projects included in the 2008 and 2009 bond packages have since been funded with federal funds.
Acting chief administrative officer John Carpenter said an election could be held April 30, the date set by the state for municipal elections in Louisiana. To do so, he said, the council would have to approve the election by the second week of January.
Carpenter said work is under way to determine what projects would be included in the proposed bond issue and how it would be structured.
The earlier failed proposals included a $225 million entertainment and educational complex — called Alive! — along the Mississippi River in downtown Baton Rouge. It would have been operated by the Audubon Nature Institute through a public-private partnership. The organization currently operates the Audubon Zoo and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans.
The 2009 proposal also included $178.3 million for drainage efforts in the parish, $141.2 million for expansions and additions to the downtown convention center, $135 million for a prison, and $92.5 million for a public safety complex.
In 2009 the Metropolitan Council established a special parish-wide taxing district to issue and support the 30-year bonds with an increase in the parish sales tax to 5% from 4.5% and a property tax increase of 9.9 mills. The proposed tax increases were identical to the one narrowly rejected by voters in 2008.
The 2009 proposal was defeated with 65% opposed, but the larger 2008 bond package lost by the slim margin of 3,071 from the 178,000 voting.
The parish’s $113 million of outstanding sales tax bonds are rated Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA-plus by Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s.