St. John Council passes budget

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 17, 2011



LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council on Tuesday voted to approve the parish’s proposed budget for 2012 with no amendments. The parish’s spending plan details increases in revenues and expenditures for the coming year.

Projected revenues for 2012 are expected to be about $55 million, which indicates a roughly $2.5 million, or 5 percent, increase over 2011. Parish President Natalie Robottom said in her budget statement the increase reflects increases in both ad valorem and sales tax revenues, which make up about 56 percent of total revenue to the parish. She said the increases are a result of the expiration of 10-year tax exemptions on industry.

Projected expenditures are estimated to be about $56 million, which is a $1.9 million, or 3 percent, increase over 2011. The most significant cause for the increase is because of automatic pay increases and possible benefits increases for the parish’s roughly 200-member workforce, most of whom are covered by civil service.

Robottom said the parish worked to refinance several outstanding bonds, leading to a decrease in interest payments. The refinances amounted to a roughly $2.8 million savings for the parish. The budget also includes a $2.1 million sales tax revenue subsidy for the parish’s $7.1 million sewer system to cover costs not paid for by user rates.

All parish employees, with the exception of Robottom, received 5 percent raises. Robottom’s salary has not changed since she took office in 2010, but a glitch in the 2011 budget left off an $800-per-month car allowance as part of her compensation, which had previously been approved by the council as part of the salary for the president’s office being tied to that of the sheriff. That allowance is part of the 2012 budget, which gave it the appearance of a pay increase and caused some discussion among council members.

“When I was elected, I walked into what was here,” Robottom said. “And what I asked for and will continue to ask for is to be treated fairly,” she added. “This issue should have been a non-issue.”

Councilman Steve Lee said he had supported a pay raise based on the sheriff’s salary mainly because of the responsibilities involved in the position and added that the raise attracted more qualified candidates in the previous two elections. All council members voted in favor of the budget except for Councilwoman Cheryl Millet, who abstained from voting because she opposed the salary level.