St. Tammany coroner's millage rolled back by council - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

St. Tammany coroner's millage rolled back by council

St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan (File) St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan (File)
New Orleans, La. -

St. Tammany Parish's embattled coroner has had another setback. The Parish Council voted Thursday evening to cut the millage dedicated to funding the coroner's office.

FOX 8 confirmed with a parish spokesman that the Council had rolled back the millage, after receiving the following news release from Parish Councilman Marty Gould Thursday night:

With a 13-0 vote, the St. Tammany Parish Council tonight rolled back the millage for the Coroner's Office from 3.38 to 2.96 mills. 

Under recent legislation, the Council now has control over the Coroner's Office tax levels and has oversight of the agency's budget.

With tonight's resolution, sponsored by Parish President Brister and Council Chairman Jerry Binder, St. Tammany Parish taxpayers will realize a savings of an estimated $800,000*.

"Letting taxpayers keep more of their money is always a goal of government - or should be," said Gould, who also co-authored a March 2013 resolution calling for the resignation of Coroner Peter Galvan. "What we've discovered in recent months shows the Coroner's Office and its leaders were not operating with the best interests of the taxpayers in mind. We're trying to fix that." 

Voters in 2004 approved a 4-mill tax to fund the agency's operation. News reports in recent years have raised concerns about misspending and extravagant, often-unjustified or undocumented expenditures, payroll irregularities, and other apparent evidence of mismanagement. In response, the Legislature earlier this year returned control of the Coroner's budget to Parish Government. 

"The evidence of mismanagement is both clear and, quite frankly, damning," Gould said. "With Legislative action giving us stewardship over these funds, we are compelled to take this in a better direction for the people we are elected to serve." 

The adjusted millage level will still generate more than $4.5 million for the agency's operations. Audits have shown the Coroner's Office has a $6 million surplus on-hand. All funding requests for the agency now have to be approved by the Council.

*EDITOR'S NOTE - FOX 8 spoke with Chairman Jerry Binder, who clarified that the millage rollback will actually save the parish about $700,000 a year, at least in 2013 and 2014 before residential taxes are reassessed.

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