OPELOUSAS — Three months into its fiscal year, the St. Landry Parish Council voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt a $5 million general fund budget for the fiscal year that began in January.
The council also agreed to use electronic tablets for correspondence on parish government matters.
As for the lack of a budget, Steve Moosa, who performs the council’s annual audit, said at a special meeting last week the council is in violation of the Home Rule Charter, which mandates that parish government adopt an operating budget in a timely fashion.
Moosa told the council that tardiness in adopting a budget for the parish’s fiscal year, which starts Jan. 1, is a habitual problem.
Council members received a copy of the proposed 2016 budget back in October. At that time, some council members decided to avoid discussing the proposal until six new council members, elected in October, could perform their own reviews.
On Wednesday, the council held a budget hearing prior to the vote, but there was no comment from those in attendance or from the council members.
In an interview, council member Wayne Ardoin said he still has concerns about a $483,000 reduction in the road maintenance fund budget for road material.
In another matter, the council voted 8-3 against having newly appointed Public Works Director Russell Schexnider attend council committee meetings.
Council member Kenneth Marks said he felt Schexnider should be available to attend all regular meetings to answer questions the council might have about road and drainage issues.
Parish President Bill Fontenot said he felt the matter is an administrative one and should not be mandated by the council.
Fontenot, a retired engineer with the state Department of Transportation and Development, said he is available to answer the types of questions Schexnider might be called on to answer.
Council attorney Chad Pitre said the council does not have the authority to require Schexnider to attend meetings.
Marks later said it would be appropriate if Schexnider could possibly attend just committee meetings. Fontenot said he will make that decision.
Those voting to have Schexnider attend committee meetings with Fontenot’s approval were Felicia Miller-Mathews, Nancy Carriere, Mildred Thierry, Marks, Alvin Stelly, Ardoin, Tim LeJeune and Jimmie Edwards.
Voting no were Vivian Olivier, Colby Clavier and Dexter Brown.
Chairman Harold Taylor was not present. Vice Chairman Jerry Red Jr., who was in charge of the meeting, did not vote.
The council also voted to use electronic tablets to receive correspondence for parish government matters.
At last week’s special meeting, Red said the council could save money by going paperless.
In an interview, Ardoin said the tablets would either be paid for by parish government or council members could buy their own.
At the special meeting and again on Wednesday, the council did not discuss how much acquiring the tablets would cost.
Ardoin said he also has some concerns that if the tablets are purchased by the parish, then all information contained on them could be considered public information.
“If a council member buys his own tablet, he would not be subjected to having the public requesting access,” he said.