EVANGELINE PARISH — Change is underway at the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office, after voters approved a one cent sales tax Saturday. According to the sheriff, it will add an additional 3.5 million dollars to the department's budget. Others believe the tax increase could cause more harm than good.
That vote is bringing change to the sheriffs budget, which is a first since 1977. While a majority of voters said yes to the increase, there are some who wanted a different outcome.
"We've kind of invoked a tax on one of the poorest parishes in Louisiana and for that reason I think it's unfair," voter Brian Ardoin said.
He says the election outcome has its pros and cons.
"I like to see when officers get a pay increase, because that's something that's important, but it's bittersweet," Ardoin said.
On one hand you have officers getting paid and getting what they deserve. On the other hand you have individuals that just can't afford it (the sales tax)."
Ardoin is retired from law enforcement and believes a change in the sheriff's office budget could've been done in a different way, like moving money around in the budget.
Sheriff Charles Guillory says the sales tax will give him an annual budget of 5.7 million dollars. It's a difference compared to the 2.5 million dollar budget they've been operating on.
"Give me a chance," Guillory said to those who are concerned about the tax. "You're going to see that the sales tax is much needed for everybody. I won't be here forever. The next sheriff will have tools to work with."
He says the tax will help the department better serve the parish.
"The response time should go down greatly," Guillory said. The plan is to increase patrols. "I want to split the parish into 4 zones. Have 5 deputies on duty."
Guillory says the additional funding will go towards equipment, patrols, pay raises for deputies and staff and also a new jail.
"The parish is spending thousands of dollars every month on pretrial inmates being housed outside the parish," Guillory said. "I want another jail. It would help relieve the problem that's so costly right now."
The tax will go into effect in July.
"What I hope to see is that we the people have to make sure we hold him (the Sheriff) accountable for tax payer dollars,"Ardoin said. "And make sure it's being spent in a fair manner."