BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Councilman Matt Watson is proposing an increase to property taxes in order to help fund raises for Baton Rouge police officers. He thinks it will attract more recruits to BRPD and also curb a recent uptick in crime.
"I'm just trying to find a little way to pay our police officers a little bit more for all they do for us," said Watson.
The 8-mil plan would raise the pay for new recruits from about $32,900 to $40,800 a year, generating roughly $15 million for the department. For an average home valued at $200,000 — if passed, homeowners would pay about $160 a year to fund the tax.
Watson says the increase will ensure the job is competitive to what officers make in other cities and will make the choice to protect and serve a bit easier. "It's going to be a whole lot closer to the national average for what a police officers makes," said Watson. "Certainly after a couple of years they're going to be right at the national average."
Watson believes the money just cannot come from anywhere else, but the need is there. "If we try to find any other money anywhere else, it's still not even going to come up to the dollar amount to give them the raise that they need," he added.
A number of tax hike proposals have failed recently, including Mayor Sharon Weston Broome's 5-mil tax plan for better roads. The metro council chose not to send that to voters earlier this year.
WAFB Political analyst Jim Engster says many folks just do not have a taste for new taxes, no matter the reason. "We're in an anti-tax fervor right now and it would seem that any tax is going to take some heavy lifting," said Engster.
Watson though, thinks people are not just against taxes, but rather the uncertainty around where money collected from taxes sometimes ends up. "At least people in my district, they want to make sure that I'm going to keep my word and that what this tax says it's going to do will continue to do just that," he said.
Watson believes people will come on board for more police protection by the time they are asked to vote, but Engster says he will have his work cut out for him in order to get such a big ask by his colleagues, and more importantly, the voters. "Any tax henceforth is going to have some difficulty getting through the process," said Engster.
Voters will have an opportunity to weigh in on the matter at a public hearing scheduled for January 10, 2018.