Jefferson Parish water tower

File photo

For the fourth consecutive year, the Jefferson Parish Council on Wednesday passed a budget that includes money for 5 percent merit-based raises for eligible parish employees. 

The council passed the $652 million 2019 budget without discussion, a break from last year, when sharp questions were directed at Parish President Mike Yenni over costs associated with renovating his office to resemble the Oval Office of President George W. Bush. 

Projected spending is $7 million more than in the 2018 budget. Although the document anticipates only about $631 million in revenue, reserves and budget adjustments to be made throughout the year will bring the projected expenditures and revenues in line, said Budget Director Victor LaRocca.

Revenue estimates include a small increase in property tax, but sales taxes — the second biggest source of revenue for the parish — are projected to remain flat. Yenni called the estimates "conservative." 

About 84 percent of the budget consists of dedicated funds that by law can be spent only for their designated purposes, leaving the parish government with little spending discretion. Further, some of the remaining money is required to fund statutory obligations such as the jail and the District Attorney's Office.

The merit raises will be based on evaluations by employees' supervisors, LaRocca said.

Employees will not have to pay any additional health premiums, he said.

Operating expenses are estimated to total about $505 million, according to the budget. Another $70 million is directed to the capital budget, and debt payments will total about $46.5 million.

Within the capital budget, $29.6 million is marked for drainage projects, more than the next two highest categories combined. Water projects will get $12 million and streets $9.5 million. 

The parish has a goal of keeping a 15 percent reserve in all funds. Only a handful are beneath that level now, Yenni said in November. The general fund is at 14 percent, and a few of the other funds are at 13 percent.

The budget sailed through the council Wednesday. The only comments came from Yenni and council Chairwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng, who thanked staff members for their work in putting it together.

Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.