Preserving millage important, Klibert says

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 15, 1998

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / July 15, 1998

LAPLACE – Approval of a millage renewal for the St. John Parish Sheriff’soffice is vitally important for the continued high level of quality operation for the department.

This is according to Chief Harold Klibert, a point-man for the campaign to preserve the sheriff’s 16.08 millage. The only change is the addition of 1-mill to safeguard the retirement fund for deputies.

St. John Parish voters will go to the polls Saturday to decide on theproposal, which recently gained the endorsement of The Chamber River Region and the St. John Business Association.The income from the present millage makes up approximately one-half of the sheriff’s total department income, the remainder from fines, fees and grants.

One mill generates $142,000 in St. John Parish, translating into $2.4million. The sheriff’s office receives no sales tax revenue and perhaps$330,000 per year in grants.

The 1-mill addition would safeguard the deputies’ retirement fund, replacing money now taken from the general fund.

Also, this millage is a one-time proposal. Instead of a usual 10-year term,this would be locked in until further need demands an increase.

An eight-page inserted section was included in Saturday’s edition of L’Observateur, detailing the accomplishments and programs under way at the sheriff’s office, many of which are threatened, should the millage proposal fail.

These include the resource officer program in local schools, the D.A.R.E.program and the jobs of fully half the force, or 50 to 60 deputies.

Besides the special section, Jones mailed a letter to major campaign supporters, this mailing paid for by his own campaign fund, asking them to support the millage proposal and talk it up with friends and relatives.

Supporting the millage means an additional $2.50 per year on a $100,000house. Loss of the proposal would slash services, including response time,as fewer deputies have to handle more and more calls for service.

At present, emergency calls are handled in three to six minutes, and non- emergency calls in 4 1/2 to 6 1/2 minutes. With half the force, theresponse time would “only get worse,” Klibert noted.

“As the population grows, we need to grow correspondingly,” Klibert elaborated.

Since Jones took office, Klibert added, the crime rate in St. John Parishhas plummeted 43 percent. However, as thousands of new residentscontinue to pour into the parish, the demands are ever-increasing on the department.

“It is so very important,” Klibert concluded. “It would be catastrophic ifit lost.”Polls on July 19 are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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