ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office says it has been forced to make drastic cuts to its budget, including laying off employees.
About 104 positions will be eliminated and 35 employees will be laid off. Sheriff Randy Smith says the cuts are the result of voters not renewing the jail sales tax last month.
"These decisions have been very difficult but necessary to make. 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," Smith said in a news release.
That's why the sheriff says he won't be laying off criminal patrol or investigation positions. But, employees won't be getting a cost of living or merit raise during the 2018 fiscal year.
"I think the people of the parish have spoken, and I think they need to learn how to manage the money they have, and if they're going to cut staff and that's what it takes to manage the budget, then I guess that's what they're going to have to do," said St. Tammany Parish resident Ken Parker.
"That's going to cut more jobs, and I don't know exactly how they're going to do it, but we already need more workforce because we keep growing on this end of the lake," said St. Tammany Parish resident, Honoree Tigrett.
The sheriff says he had to make quick cuts because the department's 2018 budget goes into effect in July of this year. Those cuts include shutting down the Transitional Workforce Program starting June 15. The jail inmate population will also be reduced by 33 percent.
We spoke with Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany about the cuts. The group was against the sales tax.
"We believe that the taxes are too high in St. Tammany Parish for the services that are being provided, and since the sheriff never did do the forensic audit that he promised during his campaign and never did trim the budget from the Strain administration, we felt that it was unnecessary to continue that tax," said Terry King with Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany.
We requested interviews with both the sheriff and Parish President Pat Brister for this story,but we were told they were not available Wednesday afternoon.