SLIDELL, La. - As the budget woes continue in Slidell, the city has come up with a way for voters to make sure it doesn't get worse.
It's a sales tax re-dedication election that Mayor Freddy Drennan and Police Chief Randy Smith laid out at a press conference this morning. The 1 percent sales tax, which has been in effect since 1986, brings in around $9 million per year and currently covers capital needs for the police department and jail, including equipment and cars.
The request on the ballot Saturday asks voters to allow the city to use this old tax to also pay for operational costs for police, including their salaries and benefits. City leaders say this re-dedication is needed to stave off budget cuts that could lead to layoffs and even department consolidations. Drennan has told Eyewitness News within the past month that the city is struggling with a 5 percent decrease in its sales tax numbers, leaving about a $1 million hole in the budget for this fiscal year.
And without permission to spend the existing tax money differently, the police department won't be able to avoid getting hit.
'We're just like other cities right now that are in some financial crisis to where we're having to rededicate some money so we can make our services continue,' said Drennan.
Smith said, 'If I'm forced to make future or further budget cuts than I already have done, I'm afraid that it could jeopardize the safety of Slidell and its citizens that expect and deserve the best police protection we can provide.'
Any decision made by voters Saturday won't go into effect until July. If the re-dedication fails, the tax stays on the books, as is.