District OKs funds for tax formula goal

BRUSLY — A fire district board voted unanimously Monday to allocate $15,000 from its budget so Mayor Joey Normand can hire an attorney to help lobby for state legislation that would change how sales tax revenue is distributed among the parish’s six fire districts.

Normand told the Board of Commissioners for West Baton Rouge Parish Fire Sub District No. 2 that correcting the 20-year-old formula at the state level is the fairest way to settle an ongoing dispute with parish government officials over how revenue that funds local fire departments is allocated.

Normand, along with the mayors of Addis and Port Allen, have been meeting informally with parish officials since June 2011 to try and agree on an equitable solution to the issue.

But this summer, officials said, those talks seem to have reached an impasse.

“Even if, by some miracle, the different governing bodies could agree on a percentage (allocation) you still have a bad law on the books,” Normand said during Monday night’s special meeting.

The formula, adopted by the parish in 1991, uses a weighted average that takes 50 percent of an area’s population and 50 percent of its assessed property value into account to distribute approximately $2.2 million in annual sales tax revenue to local fire districts.

Port Allen currently receives 50 percent of the tax pool while Brusly only gets 9 percent.

Normand said, in March, he hopes to convince state legislators that plugging annually updated U.S. Census population data and property re-assessment figures into the formula would ensure fairer distribution of sales tax revenue.

According to data Norman presented to the board, if 2010 Census results and property assessment values from the Assessor’s Office were used, Brusly would stand to gain an additional 8.87 percent in revenue.

Fire Sub District No. 3 in Port Allen would lose the largest share —12.92 percent, according to the data.

The board’s vote Monday was bittersweet for West Baton Rouge Parish Sub District No. 2 Fire Chief Mike Alleman and Commissioner Thomas Olinde. They expressed disappointment that a separate agenda item to take the chief’s position from part-time to full-time died for lack of a second.

“These guys have done everything they’re suppose to do (and) we can just take $15,000 and sling it out there on a wing and a prayer?” Olinde said after Monday’s vote. “But something that we know is going to better subdistrict No. 2; make response quicker and give us (fire rating) points...we can’t get a second to accept?”

The board would have to had allocated an additional $13,000 from its 2012-13 budget to bump Alleman’s position to full-time, officials said during Monday night’s meeting.

Commissioner Don Neisler said he felt the district should wait until it had more adequate revenue to fund the position.

One way of doing that would be amending the fire sales tax revenue formula, he added.