BGR Offers Lukewarm Support for Gusman’s Jail Tax Plan!
Halfhearted support is better than no support I guess. The Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR), a not-for-profit think tank, has issued tepid support for the Orleans Parish Prison tax proposal on the May 2 ballot. Their key complaint? Sheriff Gusman’s questionable contracting and oversight practices should be cause for concern. I couldn’t agree more.
The jail proposal is named the Law Enforcement District Tax Freeze, and it’s extremely similar to the proposal handily rejected by the electorate last fall, even though Mayor Landrieu, Sheriff Gusman and BGR all united to advocate passage of the proposal.
This is one of three distinct reports on three different tax issues on the ballot this May. BGR said it was extremely concerned with Gusman how would utilize the proceeds from the proposal should it become law. Why wouldn’t they be? His track record is horrible. The new 1,400 bed jail’s completion has been repeatedly delayed time and time again, and was mis-built according to Gusman with no adequate space allotment for mentally ill patients. Gusman wants another building (of course!) while Landrieu believes space can be made.
At this time, the Sheriff property tax rate of 2.8 mills wouldn’t change if voters approve the ballot plan. For example, a homestead exempt property owner whose home is valued at $300,000 would continue to pay the same $63 in property taxes to Gusman’s office.
BGR is extremely concerned about the governance of the Law Enforcement District and the sheriff’s contracting practices and believes that major reform is needed, the report states. BGR is supporting the tax proposal tax proposition only because it is clear that the public will have to directly or indirectly provide additional revenues to implement the costly court-ordered reforms at the parish prison.
If passed by the voters, the proposal would take the difference between the frozen tax rate and the now declining tax rate and funnel it to pay for the 2013 federal consent decree obligations at the much criticized jail. The tax rate is declining because of the office’s shrinking debt obligations from the capital project bonds. BGR estimates the tax adjustment measure could bring in approximately $53.3 million over the entire 10 year period. Gusman has pledged to use the tax money only for the following consent decree needs-
1. Hiring 200 new deputies.
2. Improved inmate medical services.
3. Higher pay for deputies.
4. Better recruitment and retention of deputies.
5. Creating new positions of corrections chief and compliance officer.
BGR notes that Gusman answers to no one when making major and minor decisions. The sheriff could use (tax proceeds) for any operating expenses that he chooses, including costs that have nothing to do with the consent decree, said BGR.
~ by neworleansmusicman on April 13, 2015.