Voters OK millage for housing juveniles

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 3, 2010



LAPLACE – In addition to selecting a candidate for parish president, voters in St. John the Baptist Parish went to the polls last Saturday and approved a 1-mill property tax renewal that pays for housing juvenile offenders.

The tax passed with 59 percent of the vote, 5,531 to 3,851. According to figures from the Louisiana Secretary of State, voter turnout on the millage renewal was pegged at about 31 percent, which was slightly less than the 39 percent of registered voters participating in the parish president election.

This was the first time the 20-year-old tax was put before the voters. State legislators approved it in 1989 as a method for parishes to cover the cost of juvenile detention without a public vote. St. John officials levied a half-mill in 1990 and another half-mill in 1991 for housing juveniles.

The tax, which generated $294,000 in 2009 and could bring in as much as $350,000 in 2010, will be levied for another 20 years. There was no public opposition to the tax renewal prior to the election.

When the millage was first approved the revenue could be used only for the housing of juvenile offenders, but a revision made by the state Legislature last year now allows the funds to go toward renovations and maintenance at administrative buildings for juvenile probation officers, judges and counselors.

The change was made at the request of Former St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard, who lobbied lawmakers last summer to modify the tax so that it could help pay for the renovation of the parish’s juvenile services building in Reserve.

District Judge Mary Hotard Becnel and parish probation officers asked Hubbard, who resigned Sept. 24 after pleading guilty to soliciting and accepting bribes from parish contractors, for the renovations. Parish officials said the building has not gotten an upgrade since it was constructed in 1975.

The $207,000 renovation project, which is currently under way, includes installing new sewer links, an expanded parking area and new meeting rooms.