St. John Council to vote on 2010 budget

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 6, 2009



LAPLACE – The St. John Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on adopting what parish officials describe as a “tight but balanced” 2010 general operating budget.

The parish financial office has estimated a total revenue figure of $51,903,337, which is about a $7.5 million decrease from last year. St. John Acting Chief Administrative Officer Buddy Boe said the smaller figure can be attributed to a decline in sales tax collection from the expansion project at Marathon Oil in Garyville.

“With the project winding down at the beginning of 2010, we are not going to see that influx of funds,” Boe said. “We also decided to stay conservative due to the dwindling national economic outlook.”

On the other side, Boe said 2010 expenses, which are estimated at about $51.8 million, show a slight increase over last year’s figures. The increase is a result of expanded insurance costs for employees and retirees, as well as an increase in payroll for the parish fire departments.

“The firefighter salary line-item went up about $400,000,” Boe said. “This is a direct result of the increase in paid firefighters on the department’s payroll.”

The budget also details an extensive increase in sewage and water projects parish wide. In a letter to the council introducing the budget, Acting Parish President Pat McTopy said the parish is pouring money into correcting inflow and backflow problems that have plagued the East Bank sewage system. He said the parish is looking to spend about $1.4 million for a sewer booster pump to help ease the flow of sewage from Reserve into LaPlace. The project is expected to be awarded sometime early next year.

Boe said the budget also includes about $400,000 for telemetry monitors for all of the parish’s sewer lift stations. He said the monitors will assist operators in determining exactly where a backup might take place so it can be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Boe said the losses in revenue are being countered with the $29.5 million bond issue, approved by the voters in April. Boe said a large percentage of the regular ditch digging and road improvement projects will be handled by bond funds. Boe said the parish has already started work on a handful of bond issue projects and said many more are starting early next year.

“Our goal is to at least begin work on every project listed in the bond issue,” Boe said. “The parish will begin to see results relatively quickly.”

Division B Councilman-at-Large Steve Lee, who also chairs the Council Finance Committee, said he and Council Chairman Ronnie Smith have been working closely with the Finance Department in formulating the budget. Both seemed very pleased with the results.

“I feel very confident in what the Finance Department does throughout the year,” Smith said. “They are continuing to perform at the high level we have become accustomed to.”

Lee said he is happy the parish makes a legitimate effort to spread funds diligently and evenly across all parish services.

“We are really fortunate that there has been no hidden agendas in the administration or on council,” said Lee.

The council will vote on the budget at their regular meeting Tuesday evening at the St. John Parish Courthouse in Edgard. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m.