ST. FRANCISVILLE - The West Feliciana Parish Council approved a series of budgets Monday, the first to reap the benefits of an increase in property tax collections prompted by a recent change in state tax policy regarding the River Bend nuclear power plant.
The budgets take effect July 1 with the start of the 2018-19 fiscal year.
The Louisiana Tax Commission announced earlier this year that it will no longer assign some of the plant's assessed value to other parishes served by River Bend.
In response to debate over the allocation of tax revenue from Louisiana's two nuclear power plants, the Louisiana Tax Commission on Thursday a…
The total increase in West Feliciana Parish revenues from the plant is expected to be $6.5 million. Of that, $1.1 million is headed to parish government while about $3 million is headed to the school system.
Parish President Kevin Couhig said the Tax Commission put the estimated increase at $365,000 per mill, but Couhig said he used a more conservative figure, $320,000 for each property tax mill, in preparing the budgets. If the commission's estimate is correct, the council can amend its budget to reflect the higher revenues, he said.
"We should know by about September," he said.
Couhig has resigned effective Dec. 10, and he said the general fund budget includes a $20,000-plus increase in the parish president's salary. It reflects the proper amount set by the parish's home rule charter, which is an average of the salaries of the sheriff, clerk of court and assessor, he said.
The amount, while not spelled out in the budget summary, is more than $100,000 per year, but Couhig said he has been drawing a salary of $80,000 a year and using the remainder to offer higher salaries to key members of his administration. Couhig said he doesn't think it's fair to ask the person who's elected to replace him to be paid less than the amount set by the charter.
Couhig's successor will be chosen in the fall elections.
On another matter, Couhig said after the meeting that the parish will seek proposals from engineering firms interested in designing preliminary improvements to the river front property around the old ferry landing, which a judge has authorized the parish to expropriate for public use.
The parish wants to improve the landing for visiting river boats and improve the parking for boaters who use the boat launch the jury built.
In the words of one lawyer involved in the lengthy and costly litigation, it's "back to square one" in a dispute involving West Feliciana Pari…
The parish sued the heirs of the late Paul Lambert Sr. and other "unknown owners" of the 72-acre tract in April and will soon place $540,000 in the registry of the court for the eventual purchase of the land.
The Lambert family, who claimed ownership in a protracted legal battle with the Police Jury and later the council, has not filed an answer to the latest suit to claim the money.
The council amended its petition Monday to list individual members of the family as defendants.
Couhig said a law firm that represented the parish in the initial legal battle has refunded $165,000 of the legal fees the parish paid and waived another $70,000 bill that was pending.
Couhig also said Rep. Kenny Havard was successful in getting $2.3 million in the state's Capital Outlay Bill for the boat landing project, including $800,000 in an easily tapped priority level of the bill.