On the Ballot

Proposed tax hike measures fail in Orleans, St. Tammany parishes

By FOX 8 Staff

Source: FOX 8

April 29, 2023

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – Voters in Orleans and St. Tammany parishes overwhelmingly rejected property tax hikes Saturday (April 29) that had been championed by Sheriff Susan Hutson and Coroner Dr. Charles Preston, respectively.

A measure to nearly double the millage devoted to the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office for 10 years was soundly rejected by New Orleans voters, 91 percent to 9. With all 351 precincts reporting, there were 33,203 votes against the measure and just 3,232 for it.

And on the north shore, St. Tammany voters said no by a 56-44 percent margin to a 20-year tax renewal proposal that would have provided the coroner’s office with approximately $7.752 million annually from 2025-44.

Hutson had described the proposed tax hike as essential to operate the Orleans Justice Center jail within constitutional guidelines required by a federal consent decree. She said some of the money would have been devoted to pay increases and deputy recruitment, training, IT upgrades and a “rainy day fund” that she intended to compound each year for unspecified uses and emergencies.

But critics — including some New Orleans City Council members and the non-partisan Bureau of Governmental Research — said Hutson was far too vague about how she intended to use the $11.7 million in new annual funding the tax increase would have provided.

“Tonight did not go as we had hoped, but it in no way diminishes the financial needs of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, which has historically been underfunded through the city’s budgeting process,” Hutson said in a statement issued Saturday night. “If we want to achieve a jail that lives up to the needs and expectations of this community, meets best practices and helps us exit a 10-year consent judgement, we must do more.”

Preston touted the importance of the St. Tammany Parish DNA lab in television commercials asking voters to support the tax renewal to fund his office, which assists with sex crime and death investigations. But parish president Mike Cooper was among those questioning whether Preston was seeking more than he actually needs to operate his office.

The coroner’s spending decisions were called further into question when a Fox 8 Lee Zurik investigation revealed Preston has performed autopsies for other parishes at a financial loss for St. Tammany taxpayers.

In the runoff to replace retired Section A Judge Laurie White at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, Simone Levine defeated Leon Roche by a 51-49 percent margin. Her margin of victory was just 886 votes in a race that drew only 13.6 percent voter turnout in the city while held on the first Saturday of Jazz Fest.

And in a runoff for the District D seat on the Covington City Council, Jimmy Inman defeated fellow Republican Cody Ludwig by a 61-39 percent margin.

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