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Parish council, sheriff have discussion about funding

Posted at 11:30 AM, Aug 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 12:30:40-04

During a parish council budget hearing today, Sheriff Mark Garber again made a pitch for more funding for the parish jail.

But this year, both the council and the administration seemed to be on his side.

Garber again is asking for more than $2.1 million in increased funding to run the jail. The budget offers an increase of $1.7 million. The total proposed budget is $6.8 million for operations, which is mostly $4.2 million from the courthouse complex fund and $2.4 million from the correctional center fund. On the capitol side, there's another $1.5 million and $714,000 proposed.

Councilman Josh Carlson asked why Garber is projecting an 85 increase in funding needs in one year - since Garber didn't get the extra money last year and still operated LPCC - especially given that he's not housing the same number of inmates because of COVID.

Garber said that he does have lower costs now, but once COVID restrictions are lifted there's a large backlog of warrants that will have to be served.

"I wouldn't count on that for the future," Garber said of the reduction in costs.

Council Chair Kevin Naquin said one major problem is the fact that past councils didn't roll back millages for parish taxes. He's referring to the requirement that all millages be adjusted periodically. For instance, assume that a property tax is passed by voters in 1920 and it is for 10 mills, and it raises $10,000 annually based on the property value of parish property. As the value of property in the parish increases, the parish council must "roll back" the millage rate, so that it still brings in only $10,000. However, once the council does that, the council also is authorized to roll it back to 10 mills - regardless of how much that raises.

"It's tough times and every department here has been lean and mean for many many years," Naquin said. "In the past we blamed it on annexation. But the truth and reality is, people have voted for x millage and we as the government have decided to play the popularity game and roll it down because it looks good for reelection, but the fact of the matter is we've lost millions and millions of dollars."

Tax Assessor Conrad Comeaux cautioned them about the millages, because everything is volatile right now and it is hard to know what will happen next.

"We don't have any choice," Naquin said. "We ain't got no money."

Also during the jail discussion, Garber signaled that the lawsuit he filed when Joel Robideaux was mayor might be resolved.

"I recommend that that the sheriff work with the council on a solution that would end this litigation before we put our future in the hands of a judge," said Garber, who is an attorney, as Guillory is. "We are on the same side. We have to work together. It's only because of antics by the prior administration that there's litigation."

"So you're saying it could go away?" asked councilman Bryan Tabor.

"Yes," Garber answered.

In response to questions, Garber discussed how LPCC handles COVID. He said new inmates are quarantined for about 10 days, then tested, and if negative introduced into the general population. They're limiting intake to violent offenders and those accused of domestic violence, in other words "people who present a clear and present danger to the community or their families."

So far, that has been working well and at this time there are no cases at LPCC, he said.

To watch budget hearings and regular meetings, or to see videos of previous meetings, click here.

To view the proposed budget, click here.

If you'd like to see laster year's budget so you can compare, click here.