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|Vote 'Yes' for OCC|
Early voting for the April 21 elections begins Saturday, April 7, and runs through Saturday, April 14.
An important issue that will appear on the April 21 ballot concerns a proposed property tax to help fund operations at Ouachita Correctional Center. The Ouachita Parish Police Jury placed the item on the April 21 ballot because the Police Jury is the governing body that is responsible for placing matters on the ballot for parish voters to entertain.
Parish voters are being asked to approve a 9.2-mill property tax to help fund operations at OCC. The 9.2-mill property tax would be levied for five years. It would replace an 8.6-mill property tax and a 0.6-mill tax levied from 2007-2011. The 8.6-mill tax was used to pay for operating OCC while the 0.6-mill tax funded capital expenditures at the parish jail.
To surmise, the property tax proposal that parish voters will consider in the April 21 elections to operate OCC is not a tax increase.
The 9.2-mill property tax the Police Jury has proposed would generate roughly $7.9 million annually, more than two-thirds of the operating budget for OCC. Another $2.6 million in funding to help operate the parish jail comes from the Sheriff's Office, by way of its work release program. OCC also collects money from the state Department of Corrections for housing state inmates.
All told, those monies represent the $10.5 million that is needed to operate the parish's lone repository for accused armed robbers, rapists, murderers and other lawbreakers.
At the same time, two studies of operations at OCC have drawn the same conclusion. That conclusion is that the facility operated by the Sheriff's Office on behalf of the Police Jury, while efficient, is dangerously understaffed.
Meanwhile, the 4th Judicial District Court continues to improve efficiencies in the criminal justice system. District Attorney Jerry Jones says the court cannot move any faster.
The hard work of the judges, district attorneys and sheriff's deputies should not go unnoticed. After several years of deficit spending, those individuals have worked double-duty with the Police Jury to make sure that OCC operates within its means. Sheriff-elect Jay Russell has pledged to open the jail's books to local business leaders and the community so they can keep an eye on spending at OCC.
We believe the district attorney, the sheriff and the Police Jury have done their part. Now, it's our turn.
While we are wary of supporting taxes in this economy, we recognize an important fact: jails cost money.
If the citizens wish to enjoy the protection of what some officials have described as the most aggressive and efficient law enforcement officers in the state, the citizens must pay for a facility to house the criminals that law enforcement officers, district attorneys and the courts remove from our streets.
For these reasons and many more, we strongly urge voters to say "Yes" to the OCC millage when they go to the polls for the April 21 elections.