Voters in five Florida parishes asked to renew 3-mill tax for juvenile detention center _lowres

Advocate file photo by Heidi Kinchen -- Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center (between Robert and Goodbee on U.S. 190)

A property tax that funds operations at the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center will be up for renewal in November in the five parishes the center serves.

The Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice Commission, which oversees the detention center, voted late Wednesday to put the 3-mill, 10-year property tax on the Nov. 21 ballot in Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes.

The tax, which voters first approved in 1995, provides more than three-quarters of the detention center’s $7.5 million annual budget, according to commission records.

The 3-mill rate is projected to generate about $9.5 million per year, according to the proposition’s language, although audit reports indicate the commission has voted to levy only 2.75 mills each year since 2011.

Commission President David M. Duke said the tax is absolutely essential to keeping the detention center’s doors open.

“When this place was created, each of these kids were housed in one of the five parishes in an adult jail, in an area that was cordoned off,” Duke said. “Now those facilities have all confiscated that space and are using it for adult purposes. If this place doesn’t exist, where do these kids go?”

The tax must pass by a majority of the total votes cast in all five parishes, rather than needing a majority in each parish individually, Duke said.

When the tax was last up for renewal in 2004, it garnered a majority in each parish, according to data from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office. The narrowest margins of victory were in Livingston and St. Tammany, where 51.8 percent and 51.1 percent, respectively, of voters casting ballots supported the proposition.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, or call her at (225) 336-6981.