AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that requires setting up a separate bank account to hold a reserve fund, now valued at $395,424, and details how it should be spent.
In an unusual move, passage of a separate bank account ordinance came after the council, with one dissenting vote, introduced and set for public hearing an amended version of the original ordinance.
That version of the ordinance will be discussed at a public hearing prior to the board’s next meeting, set for Sept. 9, when final action on the measure will be taken.
The original ordinance passed by the council notes that the fund should contain $916,997, which is the amount that would have accumulated since the approval of an ordinance establishing the reserve fund in 1999. Parish Auditor Lee Gray told the council that the parish spent about $600,000 of the reserve fund on damages caused by hurricanes Isaac and Gustav.
The reserve fund has been in the parish’s general fund since its inception.
“It’s been almost 15 years since the fund was started and nothing has been done about placing it in a separate account,” Councilman Carlo Bruno said. “It’s long past time to do the right thing with this money.”
Parish Director of Finances Jeff McNeely replied that the money has always been accounted for and that it was just not placed in a different bank account from the parish’s other monies.
As passed Tuesday, the ordinance states that each year 25 percent of the overage of general fund sales tax revenue compared with the prior year’s final budget for sales tax revenue, or $50,000, whichever amount is greater, must be added to the reserve fund.
But McKneely and Gray told the council that the ordinance did not specify when the money was to be moved into the reserve fund special account. McKneely said that it is assumed that the money would have to be deposited at the end of the fiscal year, which is Dec. 31.
However, McKneely added that the parish’s finance office does not have the figures on December sales tax collections and usually don’t get those numbers until about March 1.
Further, Gray said that the ordinance does not specify that any interest gained on the account is to stay in the reserve fund.
He said the amendment would take care of that provision. It would also say when either the sales tax surplus or the $50,000 would be deposited.
As passed, the ordinance also requires that funds can only be spent from the reserve fund on the specific request of the parish president and the approval of two-thirds of the vote of the Parish Council.