BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Metro Council rejected a Mayor President Kip Holden's call for an emergency tax election in May. The item failed eight votes to four.
The proposal Holden hoped to put before voters was a sales and property tax increase that would generate around $350 million for special public safety projects. This is the third failed attempt to pass a tax increase.
"The sheriff and the district attorney certainly and they said it was an emergency. I guess the council thought that they understood the situation better than the top elected law enforcement officials in the parish," said the Mayor's Chief Administrative Assistant William Daniel.
The public safety projects included building a new parish prison, a new mental health facility, and a new District Attorney's office. The Mayor presented his tax proposal in early December.
During the metro meeting, the Baton Rouge Police Department, the EBR Sheriff's Office and DA Hillar Moore all spoke in favor of the tax election. Parish prison warden Dennis Grimes shared pictures of prison cells falling apart, and said the facility is overcrowded with mentally ill patients who do not belong in jail.
"We are in an emergency place right now were we need to do something with the prison," said Grimes.
While all council members agreed that the public safety projects are important, not everyone was convinced that a new tax is the best way to fund the projects.
"We do need a new prison, we do need juvenile center. I think we need to look at other areas in the budget to see where we could find this money," said councilman Buddy Amoroso.
Other council members were concerned that not enough thought had gone into the project plans. There were also worries about holding the tax election in May, which historically has a low turnout. The special May election would also cost the parish up to $425 thousand.
was one of the four members to vote in favor of the tax election. She said the public safety problems still have to be addressed.
"I believe it is a serious situation that needs to be addressed, should be addressed and we have to do something at some point," said Marcelle.
However, voters could still get the opportunity to weigh in. The Mayor's office said they would address the council's concerns and try to get the tax proposal approved for the ballot in October.
The council also rejected a tax proposal from the St. George Fire District. Fire Chief Jerry Tarleton asked for a May election so that voters in the fire district could decide on a proposed 3.25 millage. The District's current millage tax expires this year. Without the election, Tarleton says his department will lose $1.5 million dollars in capital project funding.
"The fire station we talked about in the Bluebonnet/Nicholson area, that's for the University Club and those subdivisions on Nicholson, that won't happen until the earliest is maybe 2017-2018," said Tarleton.
The Fire Chief added that they would reconsider their tax proposal and try again for approval for the October ballot.