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Lafayette Mayor-President weighs in on sheriff’s law enforcement tax

Posted at 7:27 PM, Nov 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-28 22:33:37-05

LAFAYETTE – There is now a new show of support for Sheriff Mark Garber’s law enforcement tax.

The 1/2-cent sales tax proposition is on the December 8 ballot. If passed, nearly $25 million would be generated for and dedicated to law enforcement. The money would be used solely for providing law enforcement personnel, salaries, equipment, facilities and services.

Every police chief in Lafayette Parish with the exception of one is pictured with the sheriff on a new mailer going out within the coming week.

Noticeably absent from the group photo is Lafayette Police Chief Toby Aguillard. He’s an appointed chief, and he says he’s not in the position to comment at this time. Still, the law enforcement district tax is generating a lot of conversation.

Sheriff Garber says voting yes for this tax will have a positive impact on Lafayette Parish.

“Things might seem like they’re fine now. We’re relatively in control right now,” said Garber. “In two to three years, if we don’t do something now…start hardening up this parish, we will be just like our neighbors to the east.”

Garber said overall, the tax is receiving a lot of support. He believes the recent photo of Lafayette Parish’s police chiefs and the highest officer in the marshal’s office is a show of unity.

“We have to do this by being strong across the board as law enforcement,” said Garber. “I’m building a stronger Lafayette Parish and these chiefs see it. That’s why they’re stepping out on a limb with me and stand by my side on an otherwise unpopular subject.”

Carencro Police Chief David Anderson said, “I am 100% in support of anything that will help our law enforcement officers do their jobs more efficiently. I will support Sheriff Garber in this initiative to give the citizens of Lafayette Parish, as a whole, the proper protection needed to keep them and their families safe.”

Youngsville Police Chief Rickey Boudreaux said this tax will help every municipality. Boudreaux went on to say, “This will help me with retentionm, as far as personnel, and it will help all of the other smaller departments with retention. It’s also a way for us all to continue working together.”

Missing from the photo is Lafayette Police Chief Toby Aguillard. He said, “As the chief of police for the City of Lafayette, I am not authorized to negotiate contracts on behalf of the Lafayette Consolidated Government. I have not been made aware of any agreement that has been struck between Sheriff Garber and LCG regarding the sheriff’s tax. Therefore, I am not in a position to comment on an agreement between LCG and the sheriff that, to my knowledge, does not exist.”

We asked Mayor-President Joel Robideaux if he supports the tax, and he said, “It’s impossible to say at this point.”

Robideaux said if the tax passes, there could be legal issues to work through before any money could be distributed to other law enforcement. Right now, it’s still unclear if the tax passes if the Lafayette Police Department will accept the money.

“There is a covenant the sheriff filed, and if the citizens of Lafayette decide to pay this tax and get some of this money, there is something we will negotiate with the sheriff to figure out how to do it,” Robideaux said. “We’re just not there yet because of the legalities and all.”

Garber said, “Right next door to us in Acadia Parish; the sheriff’s office has a law enforcement millage they’ve been sharing with other police departments, and they’ve been supplementing pay for 29 years. It’s exactly what I want to do. This is established in this region. The critics who say this can’t be done are grasping at straws. It’s proper and legal for me to share proceeds from a law enforcement district tax with other law enforcement in Lafayette Parish.”

Now, videos are circulating both for and against the tax.

The Lafayette Police Association says they’re against the tax. KATC looked at claims in their video and determined them to be false. One claim is that the sheriff will keep the tax money only for his department.

The sheriff has filed a covenant with the clerk of court’s office, promising the money will be spread out between other departments in the Parish.

According to the sheriff’s office, the covenant is binding and enforceable, and they could be sued if they don’t use the money as outlined.

Duson Police Chief Kip Judice released the following statement:

Having worked for LPSO for 30 years and bound by a budget that had a dwindling tax revenue I know first hand how hard it is to properly plan for technology and the demands associated with inflation.  What I mean is that the Sheriff’s 1 cent tax in the unincorporated areas has generated fewer dollars due to annexation and a lack of development in the unincorporated areas of the parish, so what was once a revenue stream that supported a 3 year technology implementation will now take 6 years so that “new technology” is no longer effective or cutting edge by the time you fund the project.

I think it is not fair that the services provided by the Sheriff are not supported by all who use it, so if you are a resident of another such as Crowley and you travel to Lafayette to shop or eat you pay nothing to the Sheriff because you pay no property tax here and you are shopping in a city district.  While in transit you will travel through unincorporated parts of our parish to get to your destination where the Sheriff has to provide primary police responses if that person crashes the Sheriff has to respond to and investigate this accident.  If a  car is broken into while a person is shopping at a store within a municipality the city police should investigate the crime but if the suspect is caught the city has no jail, so Sheriff assumes costs for incarceration, and to subpoena the witnesses in that burglary case the city does not provide that service either for the cases they work so the Sheriff has to bear that cost.  No local police department has the resources or authority to manage courthouse security or district court arrest, fugitive and bench warrants which must be maintained even though a small percentage of the cases going to court are cases which are generated from the unincorporated areas where the current Sheriff’s Tax is generated.  It is only fair that people who come to a safe parish to shop and eat bear some of the cost associated with professional and proactive policing. There are 50 thousand people who do not live or own property in this parish who travel through to shop, eat and work here daily,  they should support the services.

I like that this is a long-term fix and so Sheriff Garber has taken into consideration that future Sheriff’s will not have to worry about revenue so no kicking the can down the road, we have a fix that will generate the revenue based on the volume of usage.  If 1,000 people shop/eat here they will generate the revenue to support the number of deputies needed to provide a safe environment if less then naturally less deputies are needed and conversely more people require additional staffing but they generate the dollars to support that level of staffing.

It also generates sufficient revenue that the Sheriff can suspend the one-cent tax currently collected in the unincorporated areas and a pledge to reduce property taxes currently collected from property parish-wide, a significant amount of reduction to all Lafayette Parish residents, so the visitors to our parish support the services they potentially need and we as residents get a long-term reduction on what we are paying; all while providing the Sheriff with revenue that would allow for long-term planning and future technology.

My final point I will make, not necessarily all the reasons why I support this Tax is that Sheriff Garber has proven that through a team effort all agencies can progress as a police chief in Lafayette Parish’s smallest community I am no longer insignificant with respect to the overall long-term strategic law enforcement plan.  So to that end the Sheriff has recognized since the residents and businesses of the areas within incorporated towns and  cities will generate revenue the Sheriff has pledged to return money to help me and the other police chiefs retain police officers through a stipend paid directly to every officer employed by a municipality in this parish from revenue generated by this tax. This part of the plan will help all of us to attract and keep the best of the best officers here.  Smart policing, it is the future of law enforcement.

Now the local Police Union has attacked this plan, but that is after they pledged to support a 3/4 cent sales tax parish-wide in the early stages of this proposition.  I know as a police officer that their message is misleading,  it is irresponsible and the Union knows it.  By opposing this measure they are definitely putting citizens and fellow law enforcement officers at risk.   80 percent of this revenue will NOT come from residents living in incorporated parts of this parish but from the people who shop and eat there.  There are no big department stores in the unincorporated areas of the parish so these people come into the cities to shop and eat, it is shameful that they craft their message in a manner beneath the basic intelligence levels.  Despite the claims of Union Officials that cities will not benefit from this tax, that is a lie as mentioned in this email the Sheriff supports every municipal police department in this parish.