By Dan Boudreaux Staff Writer
The newly formed Terrebonne Parish Recreation Steering Committee met for the first time Tuesday afternoon to discuss the economic impact of the parish’s recreation districts, possible sources of upkeep and maintenance money and the need for more oversight for recreation.
The committee began as Hank Babin, who represents the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce, detailed the chamber’s Task Force on Recreation report, outlining some of the areas he said the parish should address with its recreation districts, how much money they are spending and collecting and how much the taxpayers are paying for services.
“Over the last two years, we had a task force on the Bayou Country Sports Park to try to get funding for the park, then it turned into a task force on recreation as we looked into more and more things,” Babin said. “We discovered that since you have all these districts and different millages, you’re going to end up having people who live on the same street paying vastly different amounts for the same services.”
The task force compared three homes within a few blocks of each other in Houma that were around $180,000 in value. One paid $53 in recreation property taxes, another paid $106, and the third paid $164. Even though all three used the same parks, the three homes were in three different districts and had different property tax rates.
The task force also compared Terrebonne’s recreation facilities to those of other parishes. It also compared how much Terrebonne residents pay compared to other parishes.
In 2015, Terrebonne recreation districts collected over $9 million in taxes at $79.52 per person. Tangipahoa, which has a similar population size, collected just over $4.7 million at a rate of $37.13 per person. However, the amount of value Tangipahoa Parish recreation facilities have compared to Terrebonne Parish when accounting for age and depreciation is over $6.5 million more, Babin said.
“We need to take a step back and examine the current system,” Babin said. “I’d like for this committee and the parish to take a full inventory of what facilities each park has in each district and examine the cost of operations and maintenance. It’s something that never gets discussed. We talk about building these things … but nobody talks about the operations and maintenance of these facilities.”
State Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, proposed selling the naming rights to fields and structures in parks to make money to complete major parks like the Bayou Country Sports Park and Airbase Park. He also proposed selling ad space at baseball fields and parks to help cover operation and maintenance costs.
Babin said the sports complex in Youngsville makes $500,000 a year in revenue.
The committee spent the rest of its time discussing various things the parish could do for oversight of the recreation districts, but decided to just ask for the financial statements from all 10 of the recreation districts.
“We just asked for the financials from all the recreation districts,” Councilman Dirk Guidry said. “It’s our first meeting, and we’re just trying to get to know each other and figure out what we’re going to do with all this.”
The new committee is made up of local government officials, state representatives and members of the community.
The members are council members Dirk Guidry, Steve Trosclair, Darrin Guidry and Arlanda Williams; state Reps. Magee and Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma; Parish Attorney Jules Hebert; Assessor Loney Grabert; Patrick Gordon with South Central Planning and Development Commission; Hank Babin with the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce; and Terrell Hebert and Troy Johnson.