A second attempt at renewing a property tax to operate the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center found favor Saturday in all five parishes the center serves, five months after the tax was overwhelmingly defeated.
Voter turnout in those parishes — Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington — hovered around 7 to 9 percent Saturday, compared with turnouts of 36 percent to 57 percent in November, according to the secretary of state’s website.
Continuation of the 10-year, 3-mill tax ensures the detention center will keep its doors open for juveniles in the district who have been accused of committing crimes.
Members of the Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice Commission had warned voters in the run-up to Saturday’s election that a second failure at the polls would almost certainly lead to the center’s closing. The tax provides more than 85 percent of its funding.
The property tax was first approved by voters in 1995 and renewed 10 years ago. It is projected to generate $9.55 million per year, although the commission has levied only 2.75 mills each of the past four years.
Commission Chairman David Merlin Duke has said the board will continue to levy only as much as is needed.
In November, the proposition failed in all five parishes the center serves by margins ranging from 8 to 28 percentage points.
In the five months since then, the detention center’s staff, the commission and other juvenile justice officials lobbied civic groups and governmental bodies throughout the region.
The Livingston and St. Tammany parish councils and St. Helena Parish Police Jury passed resolutions supporting the proposition, as did committees and chambers of commerce for Hammond, Livingston Parish and west St. Tammany.
The commission also hired a public relations firm to put together an information campaign designed to educate voters about what the detention center does and how it serves the community.
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