For the president of the regional flood protection authority, St. Bernard Parish’s rejection on Saturday of a property-tax increase for its levee and storm drainage agency had two immediate results.One begins to wonder, though, what is the point of the SLFPA-E "regional" flood authority if the funding it requires to maintain the region's flood protection system does not transfer between parishes?
“If the Lake Borgne Levee District were a business, they would be in bankruptcy because they don’t have the funds to meet their expenses,” said Stephen Estopinal, head of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, which oversees the Orleans, East Jefferson and Lake Borgne levee districts.
And second, more to the point: “Right now, if they had a major problem with their system, they couldn’t fix it because they don’t have the money,” he said.
The increase would have been about $38.25 per year for a homeowner with property valued at $125,000, which is the average sales price in the parish. Millage rates in Orleans and Jefferson for the same purpose are just 6.21 and 3.91 respectively, but they raise much more money because of the larger tax base.That is what you might call a "system in name only" right? When the next storm comes, I'm pretty sure the Gulf isn't going to worry too much about which parish paid its taxes.
The St. Bernard failure could affect the entire east bank because the new $14.5 billion hurricane storm surge system is designed as a perimeter wall wrapped around all three parishes. A break in one section due to poor maintenance could result in flooding pouring into adjoining areas.
While the system provides unified protection, there is no unity in funding. State law prohibits the authority from using tax dollars raised in one parish on work in another. With St. Bernard’s population cut in half by Hurricane Katrina, the Lake Borgne Levee District’s income has been unable to keeping up with expenses, including $1.4 billion in levee improvements post-Katrina.