OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish Council was told Wednesday night that the parish’s largest fire district has been operating with a budget deficit for the past three fiscal years.
Candace Elkins, representing Fire District 3, said the district, which covers somewhat less than half the parish, has enough reserve funding to operate for another three years.
Charles Dore, a Fire District 3 board member, said the district has $2.1 million in reserve funds.
Neither Elkins nor Dore explained details of the deficit or discussed a specific amount.
The council at a January meeting requested that representatives of the District 3 Board, which the council appoints, attend Wednesday’s regular meeting.
Elkins said five of the seven board members were at the meeting.
The council took no action but several council members asked Elkins and other board members about the district’s operation and finances.
Elkins said the district is supported by two separate property taxes totaling 16 mills. The largest of the two taxes is 10.36 mills.
Councilman Jerry Red Jr. said the council declined last year to set an April election date for a renewal of the District 3 millage because he and other council members had questions about the district’s financial operation.
“Since October, this council has requested financial statements and we still haven’t received one. The tax election was presented to us at the eleventh hour and put (the millage proposition renewal) on a separate ballot.
“I think you should go before the people, let them know your plans and then put it on the November ballot,” said Red.
Elkins denied there has been any attempt by the district to conceal its finances.
She said the district’s audit report is available on the website of the Louisiana State Auditor.
Elkins also said council members have been provided with the past five fiscal year budgets.
In another matter, the council approved the introduction of the 2016 financial budget.
Parish President Bill Fontenot said introduction of the 2016 budget discussions was delayed to allow the council’s six new members to settle in.
A March 9 special meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. to discuss the budget proposal.
According to the budget message, general and special revenue funds, including state and federal grants, are expected to decrease by $1.5 million.
The decreases include $550,000 less in state road and bridge maintenance revenue and $1 million less in sales tax revenue.
Also, the council unanimously voted to install video equipment in the council meeting room and at the entrance to the building.
Councilman Kenneth Marks said video surveillance should include the entrance in order to let council employees who work in the offices connected to the meeting room be aware of who enters the building.
Fontenot said he’s looking into whether the parish government has any surplus cameras and equipment that could cut that proposed cost from $7,000 to about $1,000.