Bigger ’13 budget proposed for BREC

BREC officials on Wednesday proposed a $46.7 million operating budget, a 2.6 percent increase over the 2012 budget.

Higher anticipated property tax revenue accounted for the increase, despite a failed attempt earlier this year to roll forward the park system’s maximum 14.463-mill property tax, said Sheila Savoy, director of finance for the East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission.

The park system will assess a 14.038-mill property tax in 2013.

A higher number of assessed properties and higher values for those properties accounted for the projected rise in revenue, Savoy said.

The budget includes no “significant increase” in staffing or merit raises for staff, Savoy said.

Cutting merit raises would save the park system about $1.5 million, Savoy said.

BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said that next year she hoped to be able to save enough money to give employees a cost-of-living increase.

Earlier this year, BREC stopped car allowances for senior staff and instead went to a system in which employees are reimbursed for mileage, saving the agency about $40,000, Savoy said.

The total proposed budget, including all funds, is about $95 million, Savoy said. That amount includes approximately $18 million in interfund transfers and $20 million for construction, she said.

The nine-member commission that oversees the parish’s park system voted 5-1 to roll the millage forward in June. But a roll-forward requires a vote of two-thirds of the commission, so the measure failed.

Three commissioners were absent the day of the vote.

If passed, the roll-forward would have netted the park system an approximately $1 million in additional revenue, Savoy said.

Louisiana assessors are required by law to re-evaluate all property in a parish every four years and 2012 is one of those years. After a reassessment, millages are automatically rolled back so the taxing agencies receive the same amount of money as the year before, despite increases in property values.

BREC also proposed increasing many fees for its services and facilities, including a $50 to $100 increase to rent the Baton Rouge Gallery, and higher prices for for-profit events at Olympia and Memorial stadiums.

The proposed budget was not discussed at Wednesday’s meeting.

It will go to the Commission’s Finance Committee before being voted on at the system’s Dec. 19 meeting.