Voters in Livingston Parish on Tuesday rejected a permanent sales tax increase that would have paid for the placement of law enforcement officers at all public schools.
Sheriff Jason Ard and the Livingston Parish School Board backed the proposed half-cent sales tax increase — which would have required another vote of the people to remove. But it faced opposition from many residents who thought the sheriff was asking for too much money and questioned whether every school needs to have an officer.
The tax failed by a wide margin. Fifty-six percent of voters opposed the tax increase, while 44 percent of voters supported it, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State's Office.
Ard said he has no plans to try again.
"I work for the people. The people have spoken," he said. "Let's continue to pray that horrific events never happen where we live."
But Ard said he will continue to work with the school system to keep the campuses safe.
"The safety of our children and our citizens will continue to consume my life every day," he said. "I will continue to work with our school system and do the best we can with what we have."
The proposal came in the wake of a February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, when the School Board asked Ard how to make the schools safer.
Campus-based law enforcement personnel — known as school resource officers — are specially trained to intervene in situations involving fights and drugs. They can also mentor students and keep an eye on problems that kids may be having at home.
"These SROs will be equipped and trained to handle any event that may arise," Ard said in a recent promotional video. Ard had set a 2019 rollout date.
The half-cent sales tax would have been levied on all purchases after April 1, 2019. The funds would have been dedicated to the operation of the Sheriff's Office, including, but not limited to placing deputies in the schools.
It was projected to raise from $8 million to $9.4 million next year.
Ard said the tax would have allowed him to place an officer on each of the 46 school campuses across the parish. Several more officers would have been hired as supervisors and substitutes. The program was projected to have cost $5.5 million each year.
At present, there are 10 school resource officers in the parish. Each works in multiple schools. There are approximately 26,000 students enrolled in the parish's public schools.