The Independent Staff

Editorial: property tax renewal critical for sheriff's office

Earlier this week The Independent Weekly urged your support of the bond proposal that will help fund the repair of 150 roads and more than 15 bridges in Lafayette Parish. We now also urge you to vote in favor of the property tax renewal to continue critical funding for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office. Neither of these measures will increase your tax burden.

First approved by voters in 1980, the property tax generates about $13 million annually, roughly one-third of the office's $42 million budget, according to Sheriff Mike Neustrom. Should the tax fail, it would be a significant blow to the office, especially salaries. "Eighty percent of our money is spent on salaries," Neustrom says. "There would be some salary cuts."

Here's how the tax works: If your home value is $100,000, you are assessed an 8.76 mill on $25,000 (because of the $75,000 homestead exemption), which means you pay $21.90 per year. If your home is valued at $125,000, you would be assessed the mill on $50,000, thereby paying $43.80 per year.

The sheriff's office is also funded by a permanent property tax and a 1-cent sales tax collected from the unincorporated areas of the parish. The latter could eventually impact the office's funding should sales tax in the parish begin to fall in light of the economic downturn, making Saturday's vote even more important in ensuring the continuation of vital services offered by the department.