St. Tammany Parish will ask Voters to Consider Jail and Justice Center Sales Tax Renewals in Spring 2018
St. Tammany Parish Government announced today that voters will be asked to consider two 1/5 cent sales tax renewals dedicated to the St. Tammany Parish Jail and the St. Tammany Parish Justice Center, to satisfy State-mandated cost. The election will be held in March of 2018 on the Municipal Primary Election ballot. The renewals lost by a razor-thin margin last April of less than one vote per precinct, with a voter turnout of less than 10 percent.
“We have taken an even harder look at our operating budget since April, and we have implemented cost-saving measures, however, this is not sustainable for the long-term,” said Pat Brister, St. Tammany Parish President. “Without this revenue, our Criminal Justice System will be unrecognizable and very different from the efficient and extremely effective system we have in place today.”
The taxpayers of St. Tammany are required, by law, to provide funding for the Justice System through Parish Government. Without these dedicated funds, monies must be redirected to fulfill these State-mandated costs. Since the tax renewals failed last April, St. Tammany Parish Government has implemented a standstill operating budget; placed many large initiatives on hold; instituted a hiring freeze, including not filling positions that become vacant (currently at 71); consolidated offices; reduced operating hours at the St. Tammany Parish Fishing Pier; Camp Salmen Nature Park; cancelled the annual Holiday of Lights; and other cost-cutting measures will be forthcoming. Additionally, Parish Government has requested impacted agencies, like the District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Jail operations, to make appropriate cuts to their budgets and take actions similar to Parish Government’s, in order to reduce spending.
“Financial support of our criminal justice system is just that important. I ask the voters to seriously consider these two tax renewals,” said Brister. “I urge all voters to educate themselves on the impact on our justice system that the loss of revenue from these taxes will have, and inform their friends and families as well.”
The original taxes were passed at a rate of ¼ cent each, with a term of 20 years, and to fund the construction, operations, and maintenance of the St. Tammany Jail and Justice Center. The renewal rate has been reduced to 1/5 cent each, and the term reduced to 10 years. The debt for the construction will be paid by the end of the current tax but the operations and maintenance costs will remain. In addition, a portion of the sales tax revenues will be dedicated to the 22nd Judicial Specialty Courts such as Veterans Court and Drug Court.