Supporters of a measure to repurpose an Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office gained a slight lead as results continued to pour in Saturday night.
With 276 of 366 precincts reporting, the measure had a narrow 51.5 percent lead. That’s a marked change from how it was faring in early returns, which at one point had the measure lagging with 58 percent of voters rejecting it.
The ballot measure would give Sheriff Marlin Gusman wider latitude in how he spends the proceeds of an existing property tax. Gusman has said the measure will free up roughly $4 million in its first year that can be spent on maintaining a new $145 million jail scheduled to open this year and hiring hundreds of new deputies needed to safely staff it.
The existing tax, currently levied at 2.8 mills, can now only be used to pay off construction projects financed through the Orleans Parish Law Enforcement District, Gusman’s taxing entity. The measure put before the voters on Saturday allows the Law Enforcement District to use proceeds from the tax no longer needed for debt service to help pay for the mounting expenses of a federally monitored plan to reform OPP. The reform plan, known as a consent decree, calls for sweeping changes in Sheriff’s Office policy, beefed up staffing and drastic improvements in medical and mental health care for inmates.
The plan was supported by both the Sheriff’s Office and Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who has frequently been at odds with Gusman.
About 53 percent of voters rejected a previous attempt to make the change when it was put forward on the November ballot.