BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden has a wish list of issues he wants the parish to address, with a price tag of $350 million in tax payer money.
Using a new tax to pay for city improvements is an idea Holden has floated before and voters have shot it down each time. This time, however, the plan is different. It's less money and has a much narrower focus.
"We're not trying to rebuild the River Front," said Councilman John Delgado. "We're not trying to build a Blue Bayou or something else. We're just focusing on public safety."
According to Delgado, the tax money would specifically pay for a new district attorney's office, a new juvenile jail and court, a new mental health facility and a new parish prison. He added the city-parish government is spending millions of dollars for prisoners to be housed in other parishes because the current jail does not have enough room.
"There is a significant amount of savings that will result from being able to house them in EBR and so, we can offset a lot of our costs toward this bond initiative from merely the savings we'll make from housing the prisoners here," Delgado explained.
Councilwoman Tara Wicker said the problems addressed in the tax plan are issues that have been around a while and aren't going away. She also said whether the new tax makes it on the ballot will depend on timing.
"Baton Rouge is in a very, very good place," Wicker said. "Our revenues have been up. However, at the same time, how much more do you want to put on the voters when things are good? Do you want to give everyone an opportunity to experience that goodness and enjoy it? Or, do we want to say this is a time that we really need to buckle down and take care of the issues we've needed to take care of for years?"
The tax proposal will be introduced at the next East Baton Rouge Metro Council meeting.