The Jefferson Parish Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a $607 million budget for 2016, including a 5 percent raise for parish workers.
In a separate unanimous vote, council members divvied up $3 million in one-time money from a legal settlement related to Jefferson’s controversial red-light camera program, which was halted in 2010: $2 million will go to the public hospital in Metairie and $1 million to coastal restoration and protection efforts.
Next year’s spending plan — the last to be submitted by outgoing Parish President John Young — includes $464 million for operations and $68 million for infrastructure projects. It’s about $27 million more than the 2015 budget.
The big difference from last year is a cost-of-living adjustment for about 3,200 parish employees, which will cost about $6.7 million annually. Young’s administration managed to work the raises into the spending plan by leaving certain vacant positions unfilled, increasing health insurance costs to workers and reducing employer contributions to the parish retirement system by 1.5 percent.
The budget passed more or less as Young proposed it and without much discussion.
Meanwhile, money from the settlement over Jefferson’s controversial Redflex camera ticketing system was initially going to be split between the two financially ailing public hospitals in the parish, but West Jefferson Medical Center was leased to a private operator in a deal that closed Sept. 30.
Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse then proposed spending the parish’s $3 million cut of the deal on flood protection and coastal restoration projects in the low-lying Jefferson communities of Lafitte, Barataria, Crown Point and Grand Isle.
On Wednesday, Lagasse said he hadn’t realized that East Jefferson General Hospital hasn’t receive any portion of the money yet and so altered his proposal to give the hospital two-thirds of the total.
The $1 million going to coastal restoration and protection will come on top of the $15 million set aside for those efforts last month from the local government’s settlement with BP over the 2010 oil spill, money the parish hopes will attract matching funds from state and federal authorities.
While it was active from November 2007 through March 2010, the Redflex program collected about $21 million in fines. It was halted amid litigation challenging whether it was constitutional as well as questions about payments the Arizona company that ran the program had made to local lobbyists.
The litigation resulted in a settlement that divided the money from fines among Redflex, drivers who had been ticketed and various local government agencies.