For St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre, the second time was the charm.
Six months after failing to persuade residents — by 453 votes — to pay an extra $2 million a year, Tregre won the day in his proposal to raise the parish sales tax by a quarter-cent to add more cops, boost deputies’ pay and buy more crime cameras for busy intersections and the entrances to major subdivisions.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, 60 percent voted in favor of Tregre’s proposal. More than 4,260 people cast votes, just over 14 percent of parish residents, according to the Louisiana secretary of state’s website.
The vote will push St. John’s overall sales tax to 9 percent for a decade
Tregre blamed the first failure on timing, noting that the vote took place as Gov. Bobby Jindal pitched his controversial idea to swap the state income tax with a higher sales tax. That proposal was eventually scrapped.
For a family in the parish making about $40,000 a year, the proposed increase would cost about $40 annually. The department borrowed $3 million to meet expenses in 2012; Tregre said it’s on course to borrow $4 million this year.
Starting salary for deputies in St. John is about $24,800 per year. The pay jumps to about $35,700 for a deputy on patrol with the proper credentials, the sheriff said.
Tregre touts the crime cameras — which cost between $2,000 and $20,000 apiece, depending on features — as an important law enforcement tool. The Sheriff’s Office currently has about 45 cameras.
In St. John, Tregre points to a rise in violent crime as a reason for installing more — St. John had 10 criminal homicide cases in the first five months of 2013, up from four in the same period a year ago, according to department statistics. He notes that such equipment helped crack high-profile crimes like the Mother’s Day shooting in New Orleans.
Closer to home, Tregre said, a surveillance camera in LaPlace recorded three men running from a fatal shooting inside a house on Ellerslie Avenue in July.
The measure was supported by the River Region Chamber of Commerce.