Pointe Coupee Police Juror Justin Cox is proposing to shrink the 12-member Police Jury to a nine-member governing body, a move he says could save parish taxpayers as much as $60,000 a year.
Cox says his proposal, set to discussed at the Police Jury’s upcoming meeting on Tuesday, is a cost-saving measure that he’d like to see given serious consideration as the jury mulls over drafting its 2015 spending plan.
“We’re facing a huge financial burden,” Cox said in an interview on Friday. “We have a lot of aging assets and infrastructure that need repair and all these other costs are increasing — like fuel, retirement benefits and health care. We have to find some place to cut costs because we’re going in the red.”
Parish Treasurer Becky Mayeux said the parish pays jurors approximately $14,400 annually. That cost goes up to nearly $20,000 a year for jurors who also receive health care benefits through the parish.
Cox said he hopes to have a nine-member plan in place in time for the parishwide elections next fall.
Tuesday won’t be the first time that Cox has offered up a reduction plan to his fellow jurors.
In 2011, a proposal from the juror to reduce the body to eight members — the same as the Pointe Coupee Parish School Board — failed by a tie vote of the full Police Jury.
There also have been past attempts to revamp the parish’s government through adoption of a home rule charter. Such a move would mean a shift in the parish government’s structure from a Police Jury system to a parish council form of government with a parish president.
The previous discussions died due to a lack of interest from parish residents. In November 2012, the idea resurfaced when Juror Kurt Jarreau tried to get the Police Jury to support forming a nine-member commission tasked with drafting a home rule charter to present for public vote.
The Police Jury voted down Jarreau’s idea.
Cox said several jurors told him they would have supported his previous proposal to shrink the jury if he had proposed shrinking it to nine, rather than eight members. That gives him hope they’ll be inclined to support his proposal now.
“I prefer eight but I’m going for base hits here instead of the home run,” he said Friday. “I just think it has gotten inefficient to have 12 jurors. There are parishes with way more citizens that are doing what we’re doing with less people.”
In the proposal he plans to present next week, Cox compares Pointe Coupee’s 12-member jury system to nine other governing bodies in surrounding parishes.
Cox points out that East Baton Rouge Parish has a 12-member Metro Council that represents more than 440,000 people. Pointe Coupee’s 2010 population estimate is about 22,800 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Iberville Parish Council has 13 members representing approximately 33,380 people.
West Baton Rouge, Livingston and Ascension parishes all boast larger populations but are governed by parish councils smaller than Pointe Coupee’s.
And in an operational comparison between the Pointe Coupee Parish School Board and the Police Jury, Cox’s proposal notes the eight-member School Board presides over nearly 500 employees and manages an annual budget of more than $22 million.
That compares to a $19 million annual budget and 72 employees under the 12-member Police Jury’s umbrella, Cox’s proposal says.
“The key thing here is getting away from this old system of micromanaging,” Cox said.
Jury President Melanie Bueche said Friday she thinks any reduction plan for the Police Jury should mirror the School Board’s eight-member configuration. She said that would be a more cost-effective approach since it wouldn’t require hiring redistricting consultants to draw reapportionment maps.
However, Bueche was quick to say that Cox’s proposal sounds better than it actually is. She said there are downsides to reducing the number of people serving on the local governing body
“I truly believe local government is where you get your biggest bang for your bucks,” she said. “You can actually call people and talk to them on the phone. I feel like if you reduce the Police Jury but increase the coverage areas for jurors, they’ll have far more work to do and the next thing out of their mouths will be they want an increase in salary.”
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