There’s been quite a bit of discussion over which St. Tammany Parish Government services could be cut if voters say no later this month to a pair of tax renewals to support operations at the parish jail and justice center.
The Towers Building, a south Slidell building that holds auxiliary sites for a number of parish offices, joined the mix on Tuesday night at the Slidell City Council meeting.
Trilby Lenfant, parish deputy chief administrative officer, spoke before the council urging support for the pair of 10-year, 1/5 cent sales tax renewals. If they fail, Lenfant said, the parish may have to reconsolidate all services to the justice center in downtown Covington.
“We have the Towers Building over here which provides all the services you have in Covington (at the justice center),” Lenfant said. “But we do that more as a convenience to our residents over here. You can take care of your business in a short drive rather than making the 17- or 20-mile drive to the justice center.
“But if we have to make cuts, everything has to be on the table, and we’ll prioritize what’s most important to us and meet our state-mandated obligations.”
Hearing that the Towers Building could be among possible cuts was no surprise to City Council members who responded to Lenfant’s comments.
District F Councilman Jay Newcomb said because Covington is St. Tammany’s seat of government, the parish is required to provide a building for parish government services there, but not necessarily elsewhere.
“It’s not that St. Tammany Parish wants to shut the Towers Building down, but those services must be located in Covington,” Newcomb said. “I think our citizens need to be aware of that.”
District G Councilman Bill Borchert agreed, saying that the parish isn’t using “scare tactics” when talking about extreme cutbacks in numerous areas — a charge that has been levied by some who are opposed to the tax renewals.
“Forty-five percent (of parish employees) are going to go away if this tax doesn’t pass,” Borchert said. “I don’t know how you get that out there other than a quote, unquote, scare tactic.”
Lenfant said if the taxes fail, the reality “is scary.”
“It may come across as a scare tactic,” she said. “We don’t mean to be threatening. It’s difficult to even say these things.”
Voters already have rejected tax renewals for the jail and justice center twice. The original proposal of a ¼-cent sales tax over 20 years was overwhelmingly rejected in 2016. The scaled-back version was narrowly defeated last April.
If opposed at the polls yet again, the parish has said it would face an $18 million budget deficit and some services would have to be trimmed or eliminated to pay for ones that are mandated by law.
The election is March 24.
In other business, the City Council appointed the accounting firm of Erickson, Krentel and Laporte, CPAs, as auditor. The city also presented the Keep Slidell Beautiful group with a proclamation naming March 23 as “Leaders Against Litter Day.”