ST. TAMMANY PARISH – Thirty-five people will have to be laid off and deputies will go without raises in 2018 after voters blocked the renewal of a St. Tammany Parish Jail sales tax last month, according to St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith.
Smith said the missing revenue from the jail tax, which failed to earn a renewal vote on April 28, adds up to around $7.2 million, accounting for more than 10 percent of his department’s annual budget.
The transitional workforce program will shut down on June 15, Smith said, ending its controversial run.
A total of 104 positions filled by 35 staff members will also be eliminated, amounting to a 13 percent staffing reduction.
“We went through the 780 plus job positions and cut the non-essential positions that we can manage without,” he said. “This was extremely difficult and I hated every minute of it. No one wants to be the bad guy and lay someone off, but we had to make cuts in order to balance our budget.”
None of the eliminated positions will compromise public safety, Smith said, but the move will free up $5.3 million.
An additional $3.5 million will come from the slashing of capital and operating funds, including patrol cars, police equipment, technology, travel, education, training, cost of living raises, and merit raises.
“Not giving raises to our deputies is one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make thus far as sheriff. I know this is not going to be popular amongst our troops, but I have full faith that we will recover from this,” Smith said.
The jail population will be reduced by 33 percent, from 1212 inmates to 876.
“These decisions have been very difficult, but necessary to make,” Smith said. “My primary concern is that we do not jeopardize public safety and that we continue to keep our citizens safe. That is my number one priority.”