District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he will not seek a property tax in November now that Mayor-President Kip Holden’s tax plan will not be on the ballot.
Moore said he will instead try to work with Holden and the Metro Council to find city-parish funding to stabilize his shrinking budget.
He also said he will join forces with the Metro Council-created crime fighting/prevention panel which is expected to propose an April tax to support parish law enforcement.
Moore first proposed a potential property tax increase for his office in July, as an alternative to inclusion in the mayor’s public safety component of the capital improvements tax package.
The District Attorney’s Office will hold off on pursuing a tax in November because Moore said he’d rather be included in a public safety package, whether it be the mayor’s failed bond issue, or the Metro Council’s crime prevention tax initiative.
But he said a tax or a bond will be a “last resort,” if no money can be found in the city-parish general fund.
Moore said he was considering the tax this year to generate an additional $5 million.
The need for funding stems from a loss of state and federal grants, coupled with an increase in caseloads, expanded services and growing retirement costs.
The city-parish allocated Moore’s office $4.8 million of its $11.6 million budget this year.
Mark Dumaine, chief of administration for Moore’s office, said the current funding discussions with the city-parish suggest the District Attorney’s allocation will be reduced by about $200,000.
About $250,000 in state and federal grants will also be unavailable next year, Dumaine said.
Budget talks with city-parish are fluid until December when the Metro Council approves the 2012 budget.
“If the budget for next year were to stay that way it would pose an additional problem for us,” Dumaine said. “That’d be about $450,000 less that we know will be challenging for us to deal with.”
Moore said his office can survive another “year or possibly two” while a steady funding source is determined.
Dumaine said the office can survive next year by dipping into reserve funds, which are kept for retiree and health care programs.
But at least one prosecutor position and two investigator positions that have opened up recently will go unfilled because of expected funding shortages, Dumaine said.
Holden indicated Wednesday at the Metro Council meeting that Moore could expect “a standstill budget” from the city-parish, and that he would support him in a tax election for the additional funds needed.
But Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker said the council, which gets final say on the city-parish budget, will be carefully considering the funds allocated to District Attorney’s Office next year.
“Does he need another $500,000, does he need another million? We’ll have to address that,” he said. “We’ll be looking at what we’ve spent in this year’s budget that we can’t afford anymore. Do we need to give that to Hillar? That’s what we’ll have to look at.”
In December the Metro Council altered Holden’s 2011 proposed budget by giving $250,000 from the mayor’s discretionary account to the District Attorney’s Office to provide a 3 percent cost-of-living raise.