In The News › New Orleans voters approve Orleans Parish Prison tax

New Orleans voters approve Orleans Parish Prison tax

By Richard A. Webster

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

May 2, 2015

A tax measure to help pay for improvements at Orleans Parish Prison was approved by voters Saturday (May 2) just five months after the electorate shot down a similar proposal.

The proposal, championed by Sheriff Marlin Gusman and Mayor Mitch Landrieu, didn’t raise taxes. Instead, it called for freezing the current tax rate at 2.8 mills and allowing the sheriff to use the revenue for the “operation, maintenance and upkeep of jails and related facilities.” Money raised through the original tax was dedicated to capital projects.

Gusman asked for the additional money for jail operations to help pay for improvements required under the terms of a federal consent decree that could cost as much as $22 million a year. The sheriff’s office estimated the new tax proposal would provide the sheriff’s office with an additional $4.4 million in 2016.

As the vote count was nearly complete Saturday, Landrieu reached out through social media to thank voters for redirecting the millage.

Thanks to voters for repurposing law enforcement district millage to help fund a constitutionally-run jail & avoid cuts to City services.

The 2.9-mill rate that the Law Enforcement District has collected since 2008 was set to gradually decrease as the sheriff’s office paid off debts from past bonds. A previous measure that would have frozen the rate at 2.9 mills was rejected Nov. 4 by 53 percent of voters.

The Bureau of Governmental Research, a government watchdog group, supported both proposals, but with ongoing concerns.

BGR is extremely concerned about the governance of the Law Enforcement District and the sheriff’s contracting practices and believes that major reform is needed,” the nonprofit said in a recent report. “BGR is supporting the tax proposition only because it is clear that the public will have to directly or indirectly provide additional revenue to implement the costly court-ordered reforms at the parish prison.

The court’s oversight provides some assurance that the sheriff will spend the additional tax revenue to implement the mandates of the 2013 federal consent decree.”

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