OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish Council listened but took no action Wednesday on a proposal to create a parish emergency fund from annual tax revenues from the slot machines at Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino.
Parish government receives about $1.5 million annually from the slot machines. Another 45 percent of the racino revenue goes to parish offices in addition to 12 municipalities in the parish.
Council member Jerry Red Jr. proposed cutting by 5 percent the amount of the racino money given to the offices and municipalities and placing that revenue into what he described as a “slush fund,” for emergencies such as flooding and storm damage.
Council member Timothy LeJeune said how the racino money is distributed is “not carved in stone” and maybe the council should consider the matter further.
Parish President Bill Fontenot said any changes in the way racino funding is remitted would have to be done by council ordinance.
The council, meanwhile, spent nearly two hours questioning Fontenot and parish auditor Steve Moosa about the general fund budget for the fiscal year that began Jan. 1.
The council voted in October to delay adoption of the budget until the new council was seated. Six new council members were elected. Moosa said in an interview that the council violated its Home Rule Charter by not adopting a budget in what he called a “timely fashion.”
The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2016 budget March 16.
The proposed $5 million budget anticipates the parish will receive about $1.5 million less in general fund revenues this year. Those include reductions in racino and state transportation funds, $200,000 less in state severance taxes and a $1 million decrease in sales tax revenues.
Red and LeJeune both questioned Fontenot about funding for a parishwide mosquito abatement program.
Fontenot said he does not intend to spray parishwide at this time due to the cost. The parish covers 1,000 square miles, which he said is too large to be cost effective for spraying.
Fontenot said the spraying now is done in areas where mosquitoes are the most troublesome.
LeJeune suggested additional funding for mosquito control could be tapped from the animal control budget, which has expanded during the last few years.