Voters in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes on Tuesday soundly defeated two efforts to raise sales tax rates to pay for vital public services.

Although the tax measures were reasonable, our local politicians should see this for what it is: a message that voters are reluctant to approve new taxes even for services just about everyone agrees are wise.

In Lafourche, it was a proposal to implement an extra 0.3 percent sales tax to help pay for garbage collection. The parish once had a 1 percent sales tax for that purpose, but more than 20 years ago, the rate was lowered to 0.7 percent. Since that time, the revenue from the tax has failed to keep pace with rising costs associated with garbage collection – something that needs to be done.

But a convincing majority of voters rejected the tax hike, leaving parish officials to decide how to make up the difference in the local budget. And whatever happens is sure to be unpopular. Some ideas include cutting service from two days each week to one or imposing user fees to supplement the tax revenue.

In Terrebonne, meanwhile, a majority of voters rejected a proposed 0.5 percent sales tax that would have paid for police officers or deputies to be stationed in every school, among other things.

That tax would have generated more than $10 million a year, with just over half going toward the school resource officers. The balance of the extra money would have been used to supplement existing revenue, which has fallen in recent years as the local economy has suffered with the oil slowdown.

While there is broad agreement that school resource officers can help school campuses be safer for students and teachers, increasing taxes remains a tough sell.

The sheriff, without the extra money, will not only be unable to expand the school resource officer program. He will likely have to impose other cuts to make ends meet for his department. Of course, for public agencies, cutting services is a last resort. But without enough money coming in to sustain the current level of expenses, it will have to be done.

And the people of Terrebonne and Lafourche will soon see the effects of these failed tax efforts. In the meantime, they have given other local officials fair warning that they think taxes are high enough or too high already.


Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.