Council tables budget ordinance

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 20, 2002


LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Finance Committee recently met at the Percy Hebert Building in LaPlace to discuss the proposed 2003 budget.

At the St. John Parish Council meeting that followed, the council tabled an ordinance to adopt the budget so council members could have more time to review the financial plans. The proposed budget shows a near $5 million decrease in revenue from last year. Officials expect the parish to take in about $37 million during 2003.

According to parish officials, a separate capital projects budget (for projects funded by the $18 million bond issue) and a drop in sales tax are responsible for figure changes.

“The $18 million in capital improvements voters approved was not included in the budget,” Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Clement said. “It is going to take as much as three years for the projects to be done. It is hard to pinpoint exactly how much is going to be spent during this year.”

Voters approved the $18 million for road projects in division A and B, recreation projects, some building and drainage, and park projects.

While some departments are expected to see a decrease in funds, the 2003 plan is not much different than budgets from previous years and will not decrease parish services, Clement said.

According to Clement, the budget reduces operating budgets in departments like Planning and Zoning, Recreation, Community Action, and the executive lineup by approximately 10 percent. While that may cause some departments to trim unnecessary spending, it is not likely to affect most departments, Clement said.

Some departments with decreased budgets, such as the recreation department, are likely to benefit from the capital projects funds during the year, reducing their dependance on budgeted funds. Others will likely cut back on unnecessary expenditures or will, if necessary, benefit from funds transferred from departments that bring in more revenue.

“While there is a 10 percent decrease (in some departments), there is also more than was budgeted to those departments just three years ago,” Clement said. “While we are expecting less in sales tax, we are not looking at a point where we would not be able to subsidize or transfer funds if we needed them.”

Sales taxes are down about 5 percent from last year and the decrease is having an impact on local fire departments and road and bridge repairs.

“Fortunately, it is has not been down as much as in other parishes,” Clement said. “It is affecting some departments – the departments that do not bring in much revenue and depend on sales tax.”

Another change in the budget is a “cost-of-living” increase in salaries for civil service employees. The change is a result of a council-approved ordinance that adjusts the pay 3 percent for civil service employees.

The council is expected to vote on the budget at the Dec. 30 meeting in LaPlace.