Will voters in St. Tammany approve sales tax to prosecute criminals? DA will demand the April poll | Courts


Days after voters in St. Tammany Parish rejected another sales tax to fund criminal justice agencies, North Shore District Attorney Warren Montgomery said he would demand his own tax and This week, he took the first steps to put a sales tax proposal of 1 / 7th cent in the April 30 poll.

State law allows district attorneys to create judicial enforcement districts or sub-districts to collect taxes, which Montgomery did in December. The sub-district, which covers the parish of St. Tammany, on Monday approved the request for a sales tax of 1 / 7th cent over 10 years for services and criminal prosecutions in the parish of St. Tammany.

After latest sales tax loss in St. Tammany, North Shore DA says he will try for his

If approved, the tax would generate approximately $ 7.9 million per year to cover the cost of criminal prosecution in St. Tammany. In 2020, the criminal part of the office had a budget of $ 10.6 million.

The 22nd Judicial District also covers Washington Parish, but it is not part of the subdistrict. The Washington Parish already levies a sales tax, part of which is used to pay attorney fees there, Montgomery said.

The approval of the State Obligations Commission is required before the proposal goes to a ballot.

Montgomery said funding for his office has been declining for several years under pressure to eliminate fines and forfeitures as a source of revenue for the criminal justice system.

But the most immediate problem is a loss of revenue for the St. Tammany Parish government following voters’ rejection in November of a 4 / 10th cent sales tax. The original tax expired in 2018, and the election marked the fourth time voters have refused a sales tax for the jail and courthouse. It was also the biggest margin of defeat as 65% of voters said “no”.

Montgomery said he had done polls and the results showed enough support to move forward with the tax.

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“None of this money will go to the parish, that’s the biggest distinction,” he said. “All the money will be administered by the district attorney’s office.”

Montgomery said that while his office has managed to keep operating, its ability to do so is dwindling as revenue streams dry up. “And now the parish says we don’t have the money to pay you,” he said.

The 2022 parish budget only provides for $ 3.1 million of the $ 6.4 million requested by the prosecutor’s office.

“This leads to litigation or the search for an independent source,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery could sue the parish, he said, but if the tax passes he won’t need it. “One of the purposes of this is to avoid having to sue the parish.”

It is not known what other agencies that allegedly received funds from the failed tax will do to make up for the parish’s shortfall. In addition to the DA and the prison, the parish also funds the 22nd District Judicial Court. Overall, the $ 112 million budget that the parish council passed last month provides $ 14 million for these costs, less than half of the $ 32 million that had been requested.

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St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith has not commented on his plans. But at the parish council meeting last month, he said the $ 7.3 million provided in the 2020 budget to run the prison is $ 5.2 million less than needed. While he made up the difference with his general fund over the past two years, he said, it means less for law enforcement purposes.

Immediately after that meeting, he said he was not considering asking for a tax.

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