CCST: Vote “NO” on March Tax Renewal

Whereas the mission of the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany (CCST) is Good Governance, which includes transparency and good stewardship of taxpayer dollars. Whereas the Jail & Justice Center original sales tax initiative (1998), fully funded the principal and interest necessary to “Acquire and Construct” and provide for their ‘Maintenance and Operations’. Whereas the Parish has before proposed a renewal of the original, on April 9th, 2016 which failed, followed by a version of 10 years versus 20 and a lower tax which also failed on April 29th, 2017, now voters must vote a third time. It is to be noted that on December 1, 2017 the Parish hired LR3 Consulting for $77,800 of your tax dollars to develop a strategy to re-brand and educate the citizens on the Jail & Justice Center Taxes. Whereas the Parish claims the Justice Center tax is only for “Maintenance and Operations”, both renewal tax proposals retain language and money to “Acquire and Construct” despite the original construction being fully paid by March, 2018. Further, the parish says it may need to build a parking garage and a storage building. CCST feels these are “wants” not “needs” and, if pursued at all, should be voted on separately by the taxpayers. Whereas Parish officials claim to have implemented cost- saving measures and a standstill operating budget, claiming “dire consequences” if this tax does not pass. CCST has studied the Parish finances, prior year performances, and met with Parish administration about these issues. Whereas CCST has concluded that the Parish has not exercised reasonable financial prudence. The administration has recently granted double-digit pay and benefit raises, and those lucrative raises have to be paid into perpetuity. The Parish has had exponential growth in its legal staff. Belt-tightening should come before such things as a fitness center and private baths for the administration, unnecessary renovations, and the Cultural Art Center. Further, reducing operating hours at the St. Tammany Parish Fishing Pier or Camp Salmen Nature Park; or the cancellation of the annual Holiday of Lights, appear to be steps which prudent financial management could avoid. Whereas the Parish has proposed rededicating 10% of the Justice Center tax to fund the Specialty Courts. Nationwide research indicates that such Specialty Courts have inconsistent results regarding incarceration and recidivism rates, and face challenging fiscal and staffing issues. Further, we believe that such courts should be approved by the voters. Whereas Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the United States, and new sentencing alternatives are expected to reduce inmate populations, and recognizing that the state has reduced inmate populations by over 5000 inmates in the past five years, there is less if any need for a local prison. Whereas the primary functions of local law enforcement should be the safety of the community, not the operation of prison systems. Whereas Louisiana Department of Corrections operates facilities that provide higher standards of inmate services to reduce recidivism such as drug rehabilitation, child rearing, occupational skills, conflict management, literacy, in a more secure environment. These functions are not available at the St Tammany jail, and our state services are already funded in part by taxes from the citizens of St Tammany Parish; It is thus Resolved on this day of February 15, 2018, that the Board members of the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany recommend that, March 24, 2018, citizens of St. Tammany Parish reject the sales tax renewals. Respectfully, CCST Officers, Board and Advisors