Early voting for the April 24 general election begins Saturday with ballots in Ouachita Parish including two or three items depending on where a voter lives, such as a run-off election for an appeal court seat as well as a pair of tax propositions.

Voters across the parish, except in Monroe, will entertain two proposed taxes the Ouachita Parish School Board says are essential for maintaining school facilities and paying for year-round operations.

One tax proposal entails the levy of a 24.15-mill property tax for a 10-year term to support the maintenance and operations of school facilities.

Besides the property tax proposition, the School Board also has asked voters to consider the levy of a half-cent sales tax for a 10-year term beginning in 2022.

School Board officials characterized each tax proposition as a “renewal.”

“We need the support of the taxpayers,” said School Board President Jerry Hicks. “They’ve supported us in the past, and we’re asking them to continue supporting our schools.”

School Board Vice President Greg Manley also expressed gratitude for voters’ past support of similar tax propositions.

“We appreciate the past support of the Ouachita Parish voters for our school system,” Manley said. “This is a 10-year renewal tax for the maintenance and operations of our school system that is needed as we continue to strive to provide the best educational environment for our children.”

As previously reported, the School Board initially sought to make the sales tax permanent but abandoned that proposal in the face of opposition from the public.

“We wanted it to be in perpetuity at first, but that didn’t go over too well,” said School Board member Dabo Graves. “We have to have the sales tax and property tax for maintenance. Without these taxes, we wouldn’t make it.”

The West Monroe-West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce and the Monroe Chamber of Commerce both raised concerns about approving a perpetual term for the sales tax.

Historically, voter turnout for the spring general election has slumped in comparison to turnout for the primary election. School Board member Shere May encouraged voters to exercise their right to vote.

“We encourage you to vote because every vote counts,” May said. “If you’re out of town, we encourage you to vote ahead of time.”

Early voting will take place in Monroe at the Registrar of Voters’ office at 1650 DeSiard St. from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. In West Monroe, early voting will take place at the West Ouachita Senior Center on North 7th Street on March 6 as well as from March 8-13, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, voters in southern Ouachita Parish also will entertain a run-off in the race for the Second Circuit Court of Appeal’s First District, Section 1C.

Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Marcus Hunter, of Monroe, will meet Monroe attorney J. Garland Smith in the April 24 general election. Each candidate is a Democrat.

During the March 20 primary election, Hunter collected 3,605 votes, or 44 percent, while Smith received 2,628 votes, or 32 percent.

At that time, Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Larry Jefferson, of Monroe, came in third place with 2,013 votes, or 24 percent.

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