Public hearing to address budget, charter changes

The West Feliciana Parish Police Jury will hold a public hearing Monday on a proposed budget for half of 2013.

The jury usually adopts a budget for an entire calendar year, but voters approved a proposed home-rule charter on Nov. 6 that mandates the jury operate on a July-to-June fiscal year like many other public bodies.

The charter also establishes a parish president and five-member parish council to replace the Police Jury after the members’ current terms end.

The question of when the charter becomes effective remains unanswered, however.

A move to hire Dan Garrett, an attorney who has handled charter transitions in other areas, failed on a 2-4 vote at the jury’s Nov. 19 meeting after Jurors Otis Wilson and Lea Williams questioned how Garrett was selected.

Before the vote, Garrett told the jury, in his opinion, the jury cannot hold an election for parish president early next year as the charter writers envisioned.

Garrett said the jurors first must draw the boundary lines for the council districts and submit them with the charter’s other election changes to the U.S. Department of Justice for pre-clearance under the federal voting rights law.

Williams said she will propose other lawyers for consideration.

Jury Secretary Sherrel Johnson and Treasurer Kathy Welch said they submitted a half-year budget for a 6 p.m. Monday public hearing and jury action in order to prepare for a different fiscal year.

If the charter does not become effective during the first six months of 2013, jurors could double the revenue and expense items to cover the entire year.

The six-month budget anticipates revenues of $3.5 million, with the bulk of it coming from tax revenues estimated at $2.78 million.

The budget also anticipates six-month spending at $3.23 million.

Jurors also will consider a six-month budget for the parish water system.