Gonzales: Parish budget amendment not cause for alarm

Published 12:08 am Saturday, May 20, 2017

LAPLACE — An amendment revising the 2016 operating budget that St. John the Baptist Council members will vote on at their scheduled meeting Tuesday night contains no surprises or areas of concerns, chief financial officer Ross Gonzales said.

Ross Gonzales

The adjustment is intended to adjust actual revenues and expenditures to the corresponding budget amounts, Gonzales said. He noted this type of amendment is done annually once actual revenues are collected and all expenditures are processed, realizing that budget amounts were only projections.

“(The adjusted budget) is not an accurate gauge of the parish’s fiscal health,” Gonzales said. “None of (the) budget amendments would be viewed as out of the ordinary.

Overall, the general fund, which is basically the parish’s checkbook to pay operating expenses, is showing a deficit of nearly $5.8 million, a nearly $200,000 decrease of what was originally projected. However, once the various other financial sources of revenue and transfers were accounted for, the ending balance in the general fund was $2.876,963, nearly $400,000 to the better than the original forecast of $2,494,449.

The most significant adjustment appears to have come in the collection of ad valorem taxes, which show a $231,729 decrease in what was projected. The original budget projected $1,983,343 in ad valorem taxes, but the actual total checked in at $1,751,614.

“There was an over estimation of ad valorem taxes in the original 2016 budget related to a decline in the commercial assessed inventories,” Gonzales said.

“This information did not come to light until after preparation of the original budget.”

On the positive side, revenue generated by building permits came in nearly 43 percent over what was projected, from $247,200 to $352,308. Gonzales attributed the increase to grant programs and a spike in home construction as residents continue to rebuild their following the recent disasters that have included a hurricane, tornado and a major flooding event.

Also aiding the parish coffers is a $98,965 decrease in salaries in administration. The original budget projected $1,047,475 in salaries but the actual total was  $948,510.

“The decrease is related to fewer payouts for retired employees and vacancies that were not filled until later in 2016.

Gonzales said his office will use the 2016 final adjustments to help identify similar adjustments in the 2017 budget, and also assist in helping “better project revenues and expenditures” for the 2018 fiscal year, which runs from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.

Also on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Joel McTopy Chambers in LaPlace, are continued discussions on drainage and the Westbank Wastewater Rehabilitation Project.

— By Richard Meek