St. John voters reject new tax

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 10, 2013

By David Vitrano

LAPLACE – Voters in St. John the Baptist Parish rejected a proposed quarter-cent sales tax increase at the polls Saturday.
Nearly 60 percent of voters gave the thumbs down to the proposed tax hike, which would have benefited the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Department.
Had it passed, the tax increased would have generated about $2 million in revenue for the law enforcement agency. It also would have increased the sales tax in St. John Parish to 9 percent.
Sheriff Mike Tregre proposed the tax increase to help pay for some of the equipment lost during Hurricane Isaac and to pay for additional officers. He also hoped to use the funds to provide additional crime cameras and to continue some programs such as inmate training and random drug testing of employees.
“When I became sheriff I drug tested every applicant to my administration. I would like to continue random drug testing because it is important that officers are of sound mind and body in the performance of their duties,” he said, adding, “Psychological testing is still needed but is not funded in the current budget.”
He went on to detail some of the other needs in St. John Parish.
“Currently we utilize a private shooting range that is only available one day a week for officers to practice and qualify with their weapons,” he said. “St. James and St. Charles parishes both have shooting ranges for their officers.
“Additional revenue would also have allowed me to train officers in how to interact with citizens during traffic stops and how to testify in court, which are both very important in protecting and serving our citizens. I also have a goal of providing training and skill certification to inmates in an effort to decrease recidivism. But none of these goals can be accomplishes without the proper funding.”
Tregre also outlined what may happen without the extra funding.
“Despite the rejection of the tax proposal, decreasing crime remains my number one priority,” he said. “Unfortunately, I have some tough decisions to make. There are programs and plans that will have to take a distant second place to getting the crime problems under control.”
Tregre added that he may try again for a tax increase in the future.
“The deputies of the St. John Sheriff’s Office have sacrificed a lot in the past nine months. They deserve the support of the people they protect,” he said. Other sheriffs from across the state of Louisiana have encouraged me to try again stating that sometimes it takes two and three times to get taxes passed. I have no reason not to try again.”