NEW ROADS — Mayor Robert Myer has informed the Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury that the city will cease its monthly billing to residents for the parish’s $2.50 drainage and maintenance fee, which he characterized as nothing more than another money grab by the parish.
“We probably should have never started collecting it in the first place,” Myer said. “The Police Jury has proven they have no real plan for how this money will be spent. The Police Jury has added fees, taxes and other expenses to residents with no rhyme or reason. Enough is enough.”
Myer’s action has the unanimous support of the New Roads City Council which gave the mayor the authority Tuesday to notify the Police Jury in a letter that the city would stop collecting the drainage fee on Oct. 31.
The fee went into effect on April 1.
The mayor said New Roads isn’t the only city not collecting the drainage fee in the parish. The town of Livonia doesn’t either, he said.
In discussing the city’s decision to stop collecting the fee, Myer referred to a recent audit report released by the state Legislative Auditor’s Office that chided the Police Jury on its lack of financial oversight on expenditures in its 2012 budget.
“Until the Police Jury can get its (financial) books together regarding how it spends its money and can be accountable, I can’t with good conscience give money to them to use for funds that go unmonitored,” Myer said.
But Myer’s decision to not collect the fee doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going away for New Roads residents.
Jury President Melanie Bueche said the parish will attempt to bill residents of New Roads, the parish seat, if the city refuses to bill them on the parish’s behalf.
“It will make it more difficult, but we’ll find our way out of it,” Bueche said Friday. “It’s just better when its attached to the (city’s) utility bill. That way utilities can be turned off if the bill is not paid.”
The drainage fee has been a controversial issue since Bueche proposed it to the Police Jury last year. She originally asked parish leaders to consider adopting a $5 per month drainage fee to address annually shortfalls in the parish’s $1.2 million drainage fund.
A majority of the Police Jury rejected Bueche’s proposal, instead it adopted a resolution that cut the proposed fee in half, to $2.50 per month, and imposed it temporarily for just two years.
The fee was expected to pump about $200,000 into the parish’s 2013 fiscal year budget, officials said.
Bueche said she is disappointed with the decision by New Roads officials. She said the parish does “quite a bit of drainage work in New Roads” and has a number of projects scheduled to be done there.
“It’s not a money grab,” Bueche said. “Our fund is very short. This fee was a way to generate some funds to help make it healthier.”
Bueche said Livonia will start collecting the fee, too. The town’s mayor asked that the parish draft a written agreement first itemizing all of fees and tax revenue the town would collect for the parish before it started billing residents for the drainage fee, she said.