Criminal Justice
 

Sheriff's Office special taxing district to hold hearing on 2012 budget; little info available

By Matt Davis, The Lens staff writer |

A little-scrutinized but powerful government body run by Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman is holding a public hearing on its budget on Friday, though scant information on the budget has been made available.

The organization is the taxpayer financed Orleans Parish Law Enforcement District.

By law, the district’s budget must be available 10 days in advance of the hearing for the review, but it’s unclear whether the document given to The Lens is the right budget.

The district primarily exists to borrow and pay back money used for bricks-and-mortar projects, and a page included with the Sheriff’s Office budget is entitled “Debt Service Fund.” The Lens asked the Sheriff’s Office to verify that this is the Law Enforcement District budget but received no response.

Historically, the Sheriff’s Office has released little information regarding its budget.

The debt-service pages for 2011 and 2012 were among the eight pages Gusman’s staff turned over Monday

The governing body of the district has one member: Gusman. That’s why he has been able to sign over checks for $40 million to finance his construction projects since 2008 and, at the same time, withhold $32 million the city wants for its projects.

The public hearing on the agency’s budget appears to be in response to the requirements of the state Local Government Budget Act, which The Lens wrote about in June. The act requires agencies to present “a comprehensive budget presenting a complete financial plan” to the public.

An advisory group assembled by Mayor Mitch Landrieu is working to set the final size of Gusman’s new jail, and relations between the two offices have become more strained as the group delays a final decision on the total number of jail beds.

Jail advocates have encouraged Landrieu to “man up” and force Gusman into capping the number of beds and changing the way the jail is paid for.

Gusman’s budget documents show $7 million in expected revenue for the district from taxes, and $150,000 in revenue from investment income for 2012. Property owners pay 2.9 mills in taxes to the district, out of a total of 147.5 mills, or about 2 percent of their city tax bill.

On the expenditure side, Gusman forecasts $3.1 million on debt retirement and $1.8 million on interest payments. There will be $20 million left in the district’s coffers by the end of 2012.

The hearing will take place on Friday at 3 p.m. in Gusman’s offices at 619 S. Broad St.

 

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