Jindal cuts  funding  for BR projects

The Jindal administration stripped money for a number of Baton Rouge construction projects Monday, including funding for a school roof, water system improvements and senior citizen meal preparations.

The administration also scrapped $75,000 for a New Orleans civil rights museum and $200,000 for renovations of the University of New Orleans’ Human Performance Center.

Still in the budget for the New Orleans area: $21.5 million for improvements to the New Orleans Sports Arena and $800,000 for repairs at the Zephyrs’ baseball facilities.

Legislators learned what was in and what was out of the construction budget during a meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on Capital Outlay.

Among the previously approved funding tossed onto the chopping block was:

$50,000 to clear land and install sewer systems for single-family homes in north Baton Rouge.

$140,000 to reopen the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging’s kitchen.

$150,000 for a Baton Rouge children’s museum.

$365,000 for water system improvements in Zachary.

$600,000 to replace the roof at Southern University Laboratory School.

Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a $4.3 billion, multiyear state construction, or capital outlay, budget filled with more projects than the state could afford. It was left to Gov. Bobby Jindal to whittle down the list.

Since projects often are funded over several years, they are sorted by priority, with projects bumping up in priority as they need dollars.

John L. Davis, director of the Jindal administration’s Office of Facility Planning and Control, said the state’s borrowing capacity is $350 million with only $181 million of it available in cash lines of credit for new projects.

As it went to the Jindal administration, the budget was overappropriated by millions of dollars.

From the Joint Legislative Committee on Capital Outlay, the Jindal administration’s list will move to the state Bond Commission, which will approve the actual borrowing.

The Jindal administration unveiled the list later in the year than usual. This year, legislators were mired in an effort to hold a special session to review the governor’s recent budget cuts. The administration did not give legislators the project list until after the session push failed.

Moving forward will be:

$2.4 million for automotive training facility in East Baton Rouge Parish.

$2 million for the widening of La. 42 from U.S. 61 to La. 44 in Ascension Parish.

$2.1 million for an LSU Agricultural Center livestock education facility.

$1.2 million for upgrades at the Southern University Laboratory School.

Ronnie Harrison, principal of Southern University Laboratory School, said he is pleased the school received some funding even if the Jindal administration could not find the dollars for a new roof.

“We’re excited about having an opportunity to have some renovations, and hopefully, in the near future we’ll have another opportunity to pursue more funds,” he said. “Every little bit helps.”

Zachary Mayor David Amrhein said the governor’s decision not to approve $365,000 for water system improvements means the city will cancel the purchase of a new water tower.

“We just won’t have it right now,” he said.

Amrhein said the tower would have increased water pressure south and west of Zachary.

Tasha Clark-Amar, director of the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, already moved ahead with modernizing her agency’s kitchen in order to stop outsourcing meal preparations.

She said the council prepares 1,300 meals a day.

Clark-Amar said she planned to use the state construction budget money to purchase a 50-gallon kettle cooker and to replace old appliances.

“It puts us up in a hole and in a bind,” Clark-Amar said. “Our problem is we’re trying to feed seniors the best product.”