On the Ballot

Research group calls Sheriff Susan Hutson’s explanation of proposed millage increase “too vague”

By Amy Russo

Source: WGNO

April 19, 2023

ORLEANS PARISH, La. (WGNO) — “What is the timeline for all these investments? Why are they priorities? Which ones are the biggest priorities on here? I don’t really know,” questioned Becky Mowbray. She’s the president and CEO of the Bureau of Governmental Research in New Orleans.

She said Sheriff Susan Hutson’s proposal to nearly double a millage that goes toward the OPSO is “too vague.” In total, it would add about $12 million to the sheriff’s office annual budget.

“They really did not have a plan that would show voters, show taxpayers how the money would be used,” said Mowbray.

The BGR showed WGNO’s Amy Russo a break-down of the sheriff’s office spending plan for the additional tax revenue. The bulk of it seemingly is going toward staff pay increases.

“There are about 400 positions at the jail that the OPSO says are essential but they’re not currently budgeted and they’re not in the pay plan- just right there the pay plan is incomplete,” said Mowbray.

One of the proposed expenditures is $3 million earmarked for a new mobile command center.

“The mobile command center is a great example, they should be able to show you how they arrived at that number,” explained Mowbray.

WGNO reached out to the sheriff’s office to ask why it costs so much. In a statement, officials say it’s based on the estimated cost of a new command center and routine upkeep.

Another expense, is more than half-a-million dollars for computer tablets, and wifi for inmates.

That’s something the sheriff says will curb negative behavior and allow for video visitation, education and other community programs.

“I’ve seen grown men cry because they missed their kid’s first day of school or their birthday, and these tablets will help them stay in touch with their children,” explained Sheriff Hutson.

As for the BGR report, the sheriff says she disagrees with some of the findings, claiming the millage is necessary to get in compliance with the sheriff’s office consent decree.

“The re-upping of the current millage has to happen,” said the sheriff.

It’s time for Orleans Parish residents to decide. Early voting is underway now through Saturday.

The millage will appear on the April 29th ballot.

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