THIBODAUX, La. — Lafourche Parish officials say they may ask voters to decide whether taxes approved for the library system should go to a new jail instead.
Administrators and Parish Council members could have a proposal ready by the council’s July 23 meeting, The Daily Comet reported.
“I think what we need to do here is understand that we have no money to build a jail. We have to go to the people, hopefully at the end of this year,” Parish President Charlotte Randolph said. “We can’t go anywhere without the money.”
The cost for a 600-bed jail has been estimated at $20 million. The parish has budgeted $400,000.
The library system has $7 million in reserves, according to Parish Internal Auditor Tommy Lasseigne.
Councilman Lindel Toups said he’s sure voters would approve taking $6 million to $7 million and a percentage of future library tax revenues for a new jail.
“They’re going to see that they have all that money and they’re not using it,” he said. “Take what you can use, but don’t keep letting the money stockpile.”
The library tax is 6.37 mills — $6.37 in property taxes for every $1,000 of taxable property. Lasseigne proposed channeling 0.97 mills to a new jail.
Library Board Director Laura Sanders said the system needs its money, especially since state aid was cut in 2012.
“We need the millages that we are receiving” to maintain the system’s current condition, Sanders said.
“If we didn’t need (the money), we would give it back,” she said. “We’re not trying to take anything from our citizens that we don’t need.”
Voters approved and then renewed the tax, she said. “They voted for us to have libraries, and they renewed that for us because they feel that libraries are important to our communities, and so do we,” Sanders said.
Lasseigne said he thinks the council should proceed with a plan to move money from the library system. “It’s the council’s choice if they want an election. Then it’s up to the voters.”
Lasseigne also proposed helping pay for the jail by redirecting 0.6 of a mill of property tax money from the 2 mills dedicated to the Council on Aging, which has increased its reserves by about $1.8 million over the past three fiscal years. That didn’t get the Parish Council’s support.
Voter approval for a new tax doesn’t seem likely, Randolph said.
A new jail “is not something we anticipate people flocking to the polls to vote for. They’d rather see us spend the money on drainage, rather see us spend the money on recreation, rather see us spend the money on roads,” she said.
Information from: Daily Comet, http://www.dailycomet.com