- Associated Press - Friday, June 27, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman will ask voters in the fall to approve a change in how certain property tax proceeds may be used by his office.

Gusman said the move would not increase taxes but would allow an existing millage to be used for operating expenses instead of strictly capital expenditures.

Under the proposal, Philip Stelly, Gusman’s spokesman, tells The New Orleans Advocate (http://bit.ly/1iBbwP3 ) tax dollars not needed for capital debt could be used for the maintenance of new jail facilities.

“The driving force is the need to have funding solutions in place to cover maintenance and operating expenses at new facilities,” Stelly said, referring to the sheriff’s new kitchen building and a $145 million jail expected to open later this year.

The 2.9-mill property tax in question is levied by the sheriff’s Law Enforcement District. Stelly said the change would “generate $7.5 million” but not increase taxes.

The proposal comes as the sheriff’s office is seeking to hire hundreds of new employees to meet the requirements of a court-ordered plan for jail reform. Gusman has been tussling with city officials over funding for the implementation of a federal consent decree, which called for systemic changes at the long-troubled Orleans Parish Prison.

Gusman wants to build another new jail building that he says is needed to house special-needs populations of inmates, and he has asked city officials to pay for it using hurricane recovery dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But city officials, who by law are responsible for paying for the care of city inmates, would rather renovate the new 1,438-bed jail expected to open later this year so it can accommodate inmates who need specialized mental health treatment.

The city says its plan is cheaper by millions of dollars, but Gusman opposes renovating the new jail on grounds it might disrupt its operation.

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Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com

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