Update 10:20 p.m.
Despite the best efforts of local officials like Parish President Pat Brister and Sheriff-elect Randy Smith, voters soundly defeated two quarter cent sales taxes that would have supported the parish’s jail and courthouse.
With all 158 precincts reporting, the sales tax to support the parish’s jail earned only 40 percent of the approximately 14,400 votes cast. A second quarter-cent sales tax to support operations at the courthouse did worse, garnering just 38 percent.
The taxes each would have generated about $11.3 million and Smith had argued that the jail tax was necessary to help retire the remaining construction debt, do some big-ticket maintenance items and prevent layoffs. The tax doesn’t expire until 2018.
The second tax would have gone to help operate and maintain the parish’s 285,000-square foot courthouse in Covington. The building needs a new roof, among other maintenance issues, Brister said.
Voters rejected 20-year renewals of both taxes.
Update: 9:10 p.m.
With 92 of 158 precincts reporting, both taxes are losing by significant margins and appear headed for defeat.
The sales tax to help support the jail has earned only 41 percent of almost 10,000 votes counted. The courthouse tax is doing even worse, earning only 40 percent of the vote.
Voters in St. Tammany were going to the polls on Saturday on two key quarter-cent sales taxes: one to operate the parish jail and another to operate the parish courthouse.
Public officials, such as Parish President Pat Brister and Sheriff-elect Randy Smith have been stumping for the taxes to be passed, perhaps worried about an undercurrent of anti-tax sentiment that is running through recent elections.
Both taxes are expected to raise about $11.3 million annually. The taxes are not due to expire until 2018. If they are renewed, they will be renewed for 20 years.
In the case of the courthouse, the 285,000-square foot facility in Covington, some of that money will go toward paying off construction bonds. Those bonds will be paid off in two years, but officials have said that some expensive maintenance items, such as a new roof, have been put off and will have to be addressed.
Smith has estimated the cost of running the jail at about $18.5 million annually, and said if the tax fails, he may have to close part of it and lay off some employees.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter @faimon.