May 31, 2017  |  02:07 pm

In the wake of the failure to renew the St. Tammany Parish Jail sales tax, the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office (STPSO) is now facing a revenue loss of over 10 percent, which equates to approximately 7.2 million dollars. The result is forcing Sheriff Randy Smith to make quick, drastic cuts to the 2018 budget, which goes into effect in July of this year. Although the shortfall mostly affects the St. Tammany Parish Jail, Sheriff Smith has to make cuts all across the agency in order to not cripple the jail operations.

Effective June 15th, the controversial transitional workforce program will shut down. Sheriff Randy Smith says that the cons outweigh the pros when it comes to the program. “The manpower it takes to effectively operate the program the correct way, the upkeep of the facility, and the liability that comes along with the transitional workforce program made it an easy decision for us to discontinue it,” says Sheriff Smith.

In addition to the closure of the transitional workforce program, Sheriff Smith is reducing his workforce by over 13 percent, for a total of 104 positions. This will result in approximately 35 layoffs. Sheriff Smith says, “We went through the 780 plus job positions and cut the non-essential positions that we can manage without. 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.” Sheriff Smith was adamant about NOT JEOPARDIZING public safety, thus no layoffs came from any law enforcement positions (criminal patrol and investigations). The reduction in the workforce will save the STPSO approximately 5.3 million dollars.

Capital and operating funds will be slashed by over 3.5 million dollars. This includes patrol cars, police equipment, technology, travel, education, and training. No STPSO employee will receive a cost of living or a merit raise for fiscal year 2018. “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,” says Sheriff Smith.

The St. Tammany Parish Jail’s inmate population will be reduced by 33%, from 1212 inmates to 876 inmates, all of which are Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) inmates. The remaining DOC inmates will be trustees that help with general maintenance, cleaning STPSO facilities, and litter abatement across the parish.

Sheriff Randy Smith says, “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.”