JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — “We Support JPSO” yard signs are cropping up across Jefferson Parish.
It’s part of a grassroots campaign for a 7-mil property tax increase for the department.
I know no one wants to pay more taxes. I don’t want to pay more taxes.
That said JP Sheriff Joe Lopinto is asking taxpayers to pay a little more.
The new tax would raise about $28 million for deputy and other employee raises.
The sheriff says it’s about paying a competitive wage with what other agencies in the metro area are offering.
He claims his personnel is now making about 20% less than what neighboring departments are paying.
“State police are hiring. New Orleans is hiring. St. Tammany is hiring. Everybody is hiring. So, I’ve got to make sure that my salaries are comparable to those other agencies and bring us up.”
Lopinto says he’s also trying to prevent what’s happening in New Orleans.
So many officers have left the NOPD in recent years, that staffing is at an all-time low.
“It’s not that the NOPD purposely tries to do a poor job,” Lopinto said. “But when you only have a certain amount of personnel to be able to respond to the calls for service, it takes them hours to be able to get to your calls for service. We don’t want that in Jefferson Parish.”
According to Lopinto, he’s short about 200 employees.
That includes about 35 to 40 fewer deputies on the street.
JP neighbors we spoke with seem happy with the job JPSO is doing and they want to keep it that way.
“If we want to have good police, sheriff’s deputies we need to pay them,” Betty Kernion said. “Especially right now with inflation and everything else.”
“Someone yesterday told me that Jefferson Parish deputies aren’t paid as well as others in the area and it’s time we catch up,” Arthur Richard said.
“If they don’t stay competitive then we are going to end up like other surrounding parishes, Orleans to be specific,” Stephanie Quigley said. “We can’t have the same kind of crime in Orleans, in Jefferson Parish.”
One area where the JPSO has seen a rapid rate of departures is in the parish prison.
Sheriff Lopinto admits he’s down about 120 of his budgeted 400 correctional officers.
To make up the difference, the sheriff’s office now requires all the department’s POST certified officers to work at least one shift a month at the jail.
“It’s stopped my correctional officers from leaving,” Lopinto said. “It’s given them the break that they’ve needed. On the opposite side, I’ve had more deputies then leave. They’ve taken jobs in other agencies because they don’t want to work the jail.”
The sheriff's department tax proposal will appear on the April 30 ballot in JP.
The 7-mil increase would add about $143 dollars to the yearly tax bill of a home valued at just under $300,000.