In The News › Government watchdog group endorses St. Tammany sales tax for jail but not for courthouse

Government watchdog group endorses St. Tammany sales tax for jail but not for courthouse

By Sara Pagones

The Advocate

March 2, 2018

The Bureau of Governmental Research has come out against a one-fifth cent sales tax for the St. Tammany Justice Center but is supporting another fifth of a penny sales tax for the parish jail, both of which will go before voters March 24.

The government watchdog group said that parish officials have not clearly shown how much revenue is needed to meet the courthouse’s future operating and capital needs.

“In addition, the proposition dedicates a portion of revenue to the Specialty Courts which, despite any benefits they provide to the community and the local criminal justice system, currently are self-sustaining and are not a mandatory function of the district court,” the report said.

BGR said voters should let the courthouse tax expire and require the parish to come back with a tax proposal in November or December that it can prove is appropriately scaled based on a clear plan for future spending.

By contrast, the group said that failure of the proposed jail tax would reduce parish services in other areas and potentially undermine jail operations and the quality of law enforcement.

The proposed 10-year renewal would secure the future of the jail at a slightly reduced cost to taxpayers, the report said.

The proposed renewal would leave some jail costs unfunded, BGR said, and based on projections from the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, the jail will need additional funding to offset future deficits and make necessary capital investments in jail facilities.

Each of the taxes are expected to generate $9.5 million, according to parish officials.

Ronnie Simpson, a spokesman for Parish President Pat Brister, said the administration is digesting the report, which was issued Friday, and will have a response shortly.

Voters have twice rejected measures to fund the facilities, voting down renewals at the current rate of a quarter cent in April of 2016 and rejecting the reduced measures last April.

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