$8.6 million in Juvenile Justice fund, when is AP building detention center?

On October 17, 2013, by a 8-1 vote, Ascension’s Parish Council adopted an ordinance creating a one-mill property tax that did not require public approval at the ballot box.  Former District 10 Councilman Bryan Melancon was the lone dissenting vote for the law:

To authorize a one (1) mill property tax to fund Participation Agreement(s) for the care and maintenance of juveniles awaiting prosecution for crimes committed in Ascension Parish, and subsequently to acquire, construct, equip, maintain, and operate a juvenile detention facility in Ascension Parish.

Nine years’ worth of collections (at present one-mill collected parish-wide generates an estimated $1,558,000) and the fund balance is projected to exceed $8.6 million by the end of 2022.  Impossible to track until now, all revenues had gone into Ascension Parish Government’s General Fund even though the ordinance “ORDAINED…all surplus funds be escrowed for the sole purpose to acquire, construct, equip, maintain, and operate a juvenile detention facility in Ascension Parish.”

The ordinance “hereby levies a special annual tax of one mill for a period of twenty (20) years to be effective January 1, 2013. ”

The “surplus funds” were those left over after “obtaining necessary funds to enter into a Participation Agreement with Assumption Parish, or any other authorized juvenile detention center” to house Ascension’s alleged juvenile offenders awaiting disposition of criminal charges.  Until the most recent parish budget was adopted, there was no separate fund wherein such funds could be escrowed.  That seems to have changed with the first ever Juvenile Justice Program Fund appearing in the 2022 Adopted Budget Book.

According to the Budget Book the fund balance amounted to $7,884,000 at the end of 2021, though the accounting is problematic given its deposit in the General Fund.  2022’s projected balance ($8,605,000) is comprised of the property tax revenue, with a “transfer-in” of $6,915,000 from the General Fund.

Expenditures for 2021:

  • Professional Services-$10,000
  • Transportation/Mileage-$4,000
  • Probation/Juvenile Court-$525,000
  • Pension Fund-$50,000

Projected Expenditures for 2022:

  • Professional Services-$258,000
  • Transportation/Mileage-$4,000
  • Probation/Juvenile Court-$525,000
  • Pension Fund-$50,000

2022 will mark nine years of tax collection which, at $1.5 million per annum comes to $13.5 million with $8.6 million anticipated for the ending fund balance.  Whether or not Ascension ever acquires, constructs, equips, maintains, and operates a juvenile detention facility is another matter entirely.