The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury is considering backing out of a promise to retire the parish’s monthly $2.50 drainage impact fee.
The proposal to kill the fee’s sunset clause comes up for a public hearing on March 22.
This will mark the second time the Police Jury will consider a vote to amend the drainage fee ordinance since it was adopted in 2013. The parish originally wassupposed to retire the fee in August. But the jury in December 2014 amended the ordinance, extending residential billing on the fee until June 30 of this year.
The proposal to remove the sunset clause altogether, thus enabling the parish to bill residents indefinitely, is already drawing ire from jurors who have been opposed to the fee from the beginning.
“It’s just a money grab,” said Juror Kurt Jarreau. “My philosophy with business is that you address the problem first. And we need to address our budget.”
Jarreau also said the fee does nothing to improve the parish’s drainage system. “It basically just keeps the workforce going, helps us not make any cuts,” he said.
The fee was the brainchild of Juror Melanie Bueche, who suggested it as a solution to close a growing deficit that was plaguing the parish’s drainage fund several years ago.
According to parish Treasurer Becky Mayeaux, the fee has generated between $260,000 to $290,000 annually since it was adopted.
On average, the parish’s drainage fund must support approximately $1.5 million in annual expenditures — of which $600,000 consists of drainage employee salaries and benefits.
Mayeaux says without the revenue from the fee, the parish would have to siphon funds from its already strained general fund.
The Police Jury recently hired a third-party consultant to review its financial state and provide insight into how the parish should efficiently address its money woes.
Jarreau said he would rather wait until that assessment is complete before the jury entertains a vote on the drainage fee.
Bueche says the parish can’t afford to not have the drainage fee revenue pouring into parish coffers without having an alternative revenue generator in place, like a property tax increase.
“With the economic times the way they are now — look at what’s going on with state government — it’s difficult for voters to pass a tax on themselves,” she said. “We’re definitely not trying to pull anything over on anyone. It’s a small amount of money to ask for.”
The jury introduced the ordinance at last week’s meeting, with little discussion.
Jury President Cornell Dukes says he’ll wait until the public has had a chance to speak on the proposed amendment before he expresses his thoughts for or against removal of the sunset clause.
He did, however, say, “The parish has done a lot with the least amount of funds for many years. If the jury is asking to remove the sunset clause, it’s because of much-needed funds.”
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