In The News › Our Views: Facing more Orleans Parish jail costs

Our Views: Facing more Orleans Parish jail costs

The Advocate

April 16, 2015

In a second try, Sheriff Marlin Gusman proposes on the May 2 ballot a tax swap that would have the effect of extending an expiring tax that is paying off debt. Instead, the 2.8 mills of property tax would continue and fund over 10 years operation of a new Orleans Parish Prison and meeting the city’s hefty obligations under a federal court decree.

Voters rejected the idea in November and the sheriff tries again for almost the same millage. It will gradually pay off old debt to the sheriff’s parishwide Law Enforcement District. As the debts are paid off, more money is made available to hire deputies and otherwise meet the obligations of the 2013 consent decree.

The mayor and other officials support the tax swap because of the high costs of what really are hefty obligations under the consent decree. Individual taxpayers won’t see an increase in their tax bills — although they won’t see a decrease over the 10 years as is the prospect if this proposition fails.

As the Bureau of Governmental Research put it, “the money is going to have to come from somewhere.” BGR supports the tax even as it notes the problems it has with administration of the Law Enforcement District and the jail.

We note those concerns and agree with BGR on many if not most of them. But facing the painful costs of the consent decree, for most taxpayers, this is the most pain-free alternative to deal with a critical law enforcement issue. The sheriff is committed to using the money, about $53 million over 10 years, for the consent decree needs.

We urge voters to approve the Law Enforcement District proposition.

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