BY KIMBERLY VETTER
Advocate staff writer
July 10, 2012
East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux will announce at a Tuesday public meeting his decision to roll forward his office’s property tax millage.
The sheriff’s decision will generate an additional $1.5 million for the Sheriff’s Office, which will primarily be used to pay for salaries and benefits that otherwise might have to be cut, Gautreaux said.
“I’ve decided to roll forward, as I think the Sheriff’s Office has done for more than the past 20 years, because to do otherwise would mean cuts to your current law enforcement protection,” the sheriff said. “At this time, our community cannot afford to have less law enforcement protection.”
Gautreaux said almost 80 percent of his $80.3 million budget comes from property taxes, and even with the bump in tax revenue, his office is facing a budget shortfall of nearly $5 million for the current fiscal year, which began July 1.
The cause of the shortfall, he said, is property values not increasing at the same rate as recent years.
As a result, Gautreaux said, he has modified spending in all areas of his office. More specifically, he said he has instituted a hiring and promotions freeze as well as halted cost-of-living pay increases.
“We are working hard to best utilize the resources we have available in order to keep our residents safe,” the sheriff said. “I am, and will continue to seek other avenues for revenue such as grants, and I will attempt to cut costs.”
Woody Jenkins, chairman of the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party, which launched “Operation Stop the Roll Forward,” said he met with Gautreaux for two hours Monday to discuss his decision to roll forward his office’s property tax millage.
After reviewing the law enforcement agency’s budget, Jenkins said the party’s 17-member executive committee has decided not to oppose the sheriff’s decision.
He said the Sheriff’s Office has done a “great job” fighting crime outside the city limits and that it needs additional funds to continue doing so.
“They are very stretched,” Jenkins said, adding that the sheriff would be looking at taking deputies off the streets if he doesn’t get the budget boost. “I think if this were to go to the voters, it would pass.”
The Sheriff’s Office is one of seven parish property taxes East Baton Rouge Parish property owners are required to pay. After schools, the Sheriff’s Office and BREC have the two largest millage rates.
The commission that oversees parks in the parish rejected late last month a recommendation from administrators to roll forward BREC’s property tax millage. If approved, the roll forward would have generated an
additional $1.5 million in revenue.
The East Baton Rouge Parish School System has advertised its intent to roll forward, which would bring in an additional $3.7 million. The School Board plans to make a decision at its Aug. 16 meeting.
Louisiana assessors are required by law to re-evaluate all property in a parish every four years and 2012 is one of those years.
After a reassessment, millages are automatically rolled back so the taxing agencies receive the same amount of money as the year before, despite increases in property values.
But with a two-thirds vote of the governing board, the taxing agencies can roll forward the millage to the previous rate and receive the additional tax revenue, according to the state constitution.
Because the sheriff is not governed by a board, he alone decides whether to roll the millage forward.
Gautreaux’s decision to do so will affect taxpayer’s 2012 bill.
Tuesday’s meeting will be held at the sheriff’s office downtown.