The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury is laying off nine parish employees and taking other cost-cutting measures to bring its budget in line with lower than projected revenues.
The Police Jury sent layoff notices to the nine workers on Thursday. Six more positions were never filled after employees left, bringing to 15 the total number of full-time positions that have been cut from the budget.
“It’s a horrible feeling to look someone in the eye and tell them something like that. You get to know these employees,” Juror Justin Cox said Thursday. “Any time you get to know someone on a personal level you hate to have to make decisions that will affect their livelihood.”
Cox, who serves as chairman of the Police Jury’s finance committee, sent out a memo announcing the parish’s reduction efforts — most of which were decided upon during a special meeting Wednesday night.
The parish hasn’t made any workforce reductions in at least 16 years, Cox said.
Jury president Cornell Dukes said the layoffs were unavoidable.
“We’re just at a crossroads where we’ll have to make tough decisions,” he said.
In addition to cuts to the parish’s workforce, the Police Jury has also canceled its contracts with at least three small companies that provided various maintenance and cleaning services to the parish. Each contract was for about $40,000, Cox said.
The parish has also made 25 percent reductions in the money it allocates to various agencies, like False River Airport and Hope Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit.
The jury decided to completely sever its financial ties with the Pointe Coupee Parish Museum. Cutting off the museum will save the parish at least $18,000 annually in costs associated with funding four part-time positions at the facility.
But the jury’s action doesn’t mean the museum is shuttering its doors. Cox said the city of New Roads has decided to fund the operation for the rest of the year.
“Thereafter, we’re looking for private organizations to fund it,” he said.
The Police Jury’s financial woes have been an ongoing issue, mostly compounded by its struggle to fund the parish’s detention center.
But according to Cox’s memo Thursday, this new effort to reduce costs is driven by a decline in sales tax revenue this year that is projected to be more than $500,000.
And if things don’t turn around soon, there could be additional cuts, Cox said in his memo.
“We also receive revenue from oil severance taxes. The major downturn in the oil industry is hitting us hard, too,” he wrote. “Our first quarterly payment was below target. We are waiting for the next payment. The word from the state on that revenue is that it will be well below target as well.”
Newly-seated juror Stephen Smith believes it’s now important the Police Jury focus on creating new revenue streams to stave off any additional cuts to spending.
“You just can’t cut. You have to also generate revenue,” he said Thursday.
In his memo, Cox urged residents to shop locally if they want to help fund agencies throughout the parish and maintain services the parish provides.
“Every purchase counts,” he wrote.