Iberville unveils $41.6 million budget

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Despite declining tax revenues, Iberville Parish’s $41.6 million budget for 2013 reflects a 1.5 percent increase in spending compared to 2012, according to the administration’s budget proposal released Oct. 16.

Nearly 30 percent of the $611,882 projected spending increase is attributed to more than $11 million in capital outlay projects reflected in the proposed budget.

But parish Financial Director Randall Dunn said most of the projects Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso has proposed for the 2013 budget are being financed through federal and state funding.

“Just because we have $41 million budgeted doesn’t mean it’s really a $41 million budget,” Dunn said last week. “Take out the $10 million in recovery funds we’re getting from the state, and we actually have a $31 million operating budget.”

The Parish Council will consider adopting the new budget Tuesday following a public hearing on the proposed spending plan.

The public hearing is set for 6 p.m. in the council meeting room on the second floor of the Iberville Parish Courthouse.

Among the proposed projects the parish president placed on a list he included with the budget proposal are:

  • $10 million in state earmarked funds related to the construction of the Iberville Parish Medical Center.
  • $400,000 to continue the parish’s road crack-sealing program.
  • $300,000 to build a payment center and office space for the parish’s Utility Department in St. Gabriel.
  • $100,000 to aid in the construction of a building at the Ibervlle Parish Jail to house machines that wash and dry prisoner uniforms.
  • $50,000 for construction of a rifle range.

Ourso previously said he would go into more detail about the items during Tuesday’s public hearing.

According to the proposed budget, sales and use tax revenues totaling $13,758,775 in 2012 are projected to decline to $13,522,235 in 2013, a 2 percent decrease.

“We’re at the bottom of what I feel is the floor of our sales tax (revenue),” Dunn said.

In the budget’s narrative, Ourso said the “use” portion of Iberville’s sales tax collections is “heavily” dependent on industrial plant maintenance and expansion in the parish.

Ourso said the pace of petrochemical plant expansions will level off in 2013 and remain more or less static until the economy rebounds.

“When I first started working on the budget, we were looking at possible cuts across the board.” Dunn said.

Dunn said the parish was able to avoid severe cost-cutting measures, such as employee layoffs, due to some $500,000 in additional property tax revenue produced as a result of the recent parishwide property reassessment by the Assessor’s Office.

However, Dunn said, “just because property taxes increased, it doesn’t mean you can just plug a hole somewhere else where funds are low.”

The Parish Council tried in October to offset projected spending increases for 2013 by capping members’ annual travel expenses at $4,000 each.

“That’s the biggest fight within the council office: living within our means when it comes to travel,” Council President Matt Jewell said. “We’re trying to get them to pass a comprehensive travel policy, but it’s a fight to get 13 people to agree on something.”

The council also renegotiated its contract with Progressive Waste Solutions in August, producing about $550,000 in annual savings for the parish’s solid waste fund.

Dunn said the fund was facing a deficit if trash pickup hadn’t been scaled back to once a week.

The council’s actions resulted in a 2.6 percent decrease in projected spending from the 2013 general fund, according to the budget proposal.

The 2013 general fund, which makes up 22 percent of the total budget and pays for general parish government operations, drops from $9.5 million in 2012 to $9.3 million in 2013.

“This was probably was one of the most challenging budgets I had to do because sales tax went down and other costs increased,” Dunn said. “As inflation goes up ... the general cost of doing government is going to go up, too.”