Property tax millage for EBR Sheriff’s Office up for renewal

A 10-year property tax that accounts for about 30 percent of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office general operating fund is up for renewal in the Oct. 19 election.

Early voting is Oct. 5 to 12, excluding Sunday, Oct. 6.

The 6.9-mill property tax brings in an estimated $24.7 million in annual revenue, according to the public notice for the renewal. If renewed, the tax would run through 2023.

The tax was first passed in 1994 at the same rate of 6.9 mills, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said.

“To put the impact of this millage into more tangible terms, it is roughly equivalent to the starting salary and benefits of 544 deputies,” Gautreaux said.

Revenue collected from the tax goes into the general fund for operations, salaries and other expenses related to various programs and initiatives the Sheriff’s Office runs, including school outreach programs and community safety programs.

“I do not ask for any additional funding, only a renewal of our current funding that has been in place for nearly the past 20 years so that we can continue providing the same services and protection to the community,” Gautreaux said.

The Sheriff’s Office budget is primarily funded by three property taxes: the 6.9-mill tax that is up for renewal, a permanent 4.36-mill tax, and a 3.73-mill tax that comes up for renewal every 10 years.

The 3.73-mill tax was renewed in May 2010 and approved with 84 percent of the vote, Gautreaux said.

“I think residents recognize that these are renewals and will cost no additional money, and I think that most of us agree that cutting back law enforcement efforts would be detrimental to the safety of the community,” he said.

Parish Assessor Brian Wilson said the Homestead Exemption Act applies to this tax, meaning that the first $75,000 of a home’s value is exempt from taxation.

It is the largest and most common tax break for residential property.

For a property valued at $100,000 with the homestead exemption, the 6.9-mill tax costs the property owner $17.25 a year. For a property valued at $200,000 with the homestead exemption, the 6.9-mill tax costs the property owner $86.25 a year.

The Sheriff’s Office has 857 employees and serves more than 440,000 people in the parish.

In 2012, sheriff’s deputies responded to 204,364 calls for assistance.

“This has doubled since 10 years ago when this millage was last renewed,” Sheriff’s spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.