NEW ROADS — The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury on Tuesday asked its attorney to research how the parish could shrink the governing body from 12 members to 9, deferring more serious discussion about the issue to its finance meeting later this month.
The jury’s actions came after Juror Justin Cox offered the proposal to shrink the Police Jury as a cost-cutting measure as the parish heads into its 2015 budget discussions.
“We have very dismal looking future from a financial standpoint,” Cox told jurors at Tuesday night’s meeting. “We need to make reductions, and I’m 100 percent for starting at the top and working down to the bottom.”
Cox’s proposal could save taxpayers up to $60,000 annually in what the parish pays jurors to serve.
Parish Treasurer Becky Mayeux said previously 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 wants to have a nine-member plan in place in time for the parishwide elections next fall. For that to happen, Dannie Garrett, the parish’s attorney, said, the Police Jury would need to have a nine-member plan adopted and submitted to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office by Aug. 31.
Before the jury voted to defer the discussion to its Oct. 27 finance committee meeting, Juror Allen Monk proposed that the jury adopt a reduction plan that mirrors the Pointe Coupee Parish School Board’s eight-member model but staying in line with Cox’s nine-member idea by adding an at-large seat.
“It’s going to cost us to redistrict,” Monk said. “If you already have districts that are approved it’s a whole lot faster to get the process done.”
Cox said he is willing to entertain any suggestions but wants jurors to talk with their constituents and research his proposal for themselves.
In his proposal, Cox compares Pointe Coupee’s 12-member jury system to nine other governing bodies in nearby parishes:
East Baton Rouge Parish has a 12-member Metro Council that represents more than 440,000 people.
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.
Pointe Coupee’s 2010 population estimate is about 22,800 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
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 parish government’s $19 million annual budget and 72 employees under the 12-member Police Jury’s umbrella.
“The only downside is that the remaining jurors would have more citizens to represent,” Cox said. “Each remaining district with the nine-member proposal would have an increase of 633 citizens. Certainly we can do this. I do not think that’s something that’s hard to ask for.”