Thursday, May 30, 2024

Haughton to vote on property tax for public safety improvements

by BIZ Magazine

Town of Haughton officials will be asking the public for passage of a 14.46 mills property tax dedicated to funding much needed improvements for public safety departments in one of the fastest growing municipalities in the state. Date set for the election is March 25.

If passed, the millage would raise about $413, 931 annually for a period of 15 years, beginning in 2023 and ending in 2037. A division of the millage income would give 7.36 mills to the Haughton Fire Department and 7.1 mills to the Haughton Police Department.

Income from its share of the millage would be used by the fire department to replace three fire engines, four all-purpose quick response apparatus, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and bunker gear.

Also on the list is radio equipment, firefighting equipment, hydraulic cutting tools (Jaws of Life), training props, and station and equipment repairs.

Town officials said Haughton is the seventh fastest growing municipality in Louisiana, boasting a growth rate of 31.4 percent based on 2020 census data.

“With this growth, our demands for public safety have followed suit,” said Fire Chief Jimmy Holland of the Haughton Fire Department. “Haughton Fire has seen a 43 percent increase in call volume over the last 10 years.”

Haughton currently has no property taxes dedicated to either its police or fire departments. Holland said a 15-year needs assessment was conducted to project an equipment replacement schedule.

“This would be done over 15 years. We would not be purchasing all the needed equipment today.” Holland said. “The safety of our personnel and our community is our top priority.”

Haughton Chief of Police Todd Gibson said the millage is paramount for providing equipment needs including software that will help the department monitor web-based crimes and arrest those who are preying on children.

“We are seeing more web-based crimes, especially against our children via cell phones and social media,” Gibson said. “The ability to purchase Cellebrite software will help us monitor and arrest sex offenders who prey on our kids.”

Millage funds will help the department replace at least two police cars per year along with other equipment that ensures the safety and productivity of Haughton’s officers, Gibson said.

“Replacing bullet-proof vests as well as laptops help keep our officers safe and allow them to work on the streets rather than having to come to the station to prepare reports,” he said. “Our portable radios need to be replaced. Some are very old and cost us money in maintenance repairs.”

Gibson said technology has advanced past much of the department’s camera equipment, which plays a key role in preventing and solving crime. More crime cameras in the town limits will help track individuals and vehicles used in committing crimes, and in-car and body camera are outdated, he said.

“This millage would help us keep up-to-date equipment and technology that would make it better for our officers to serve our communities,” Gibson said.

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