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In the News

Police Jury closer to balancing budget

By Cyndi Sellers

The Cameron Parish Police Jury continues to operate at a deficit, but that deficit is shrinking according to Parish Treasurer Katie Armentor. In a comprehensive finance report to the Police Jury on Friday, Mar. 9, she said the 2017 deficit of $968,072 was much less than the budgeted deficit of $4.88 million, and the parish is “very close to balancing the budget.”

Parish revenues have been declining since 2015, with ad valorem (property) taxes and road royalty payments both down. Income in 2016 and 2017 was down about $1 million from the 2015 level.

To counter the losses, the parish cut five positions in 2017 by not replacing employees who retired or quit. Since 2013 a total of 12 positions eliminated, 20% of the total parish workforce. In addition, VOIP phone equipment has been purchased, replacing leased equipment for a savings of $11,300 annually. Excess analog phone lines have been eliminated, and 10 parish owned cell phones have been converted to per diem rates for employee-owned cell phones, for a savings of $27,800 annually. Janitorial services and copier costs have been reduced, and professional services contracts re-negotiated. Total annual savings from these measures are projected to be $390,000 in 2018.

The largest part of the 2017 deficit was a transfer of $831,513 to the Road and Bridge department to supplement the tax revenue dedicated to that department. Even so, the Road and Bridge deficit was less than expected.

Besides newly instituted efficiencies in fleet management and work order procedures, the Public Works Department (formerly Road and Bridge) is instituting a cost list for services provided to other parish entities. These services have been provided for free or below cost in the past, but with the department operating at a $1 million deficit every year the parish cannot afford to do so any more, said Parish Administrator Ryan Bourriaque. The new fees, based on FEMA rates, will still be less than commercial rates, he said.

Armentor also pointed out that three fire districts showed large deficits last year. The Creole Fire Department has lost half its tax base and showed a $49,802 deficit. The two fire departments that use paid firefighters, Cameron and Johnson Bayou, also had large deficits. Cameron has also lost much of its tax base and showed a $187,941 deficit. Johnson Bayou’s revenue increased, but it still had a $796,799 deficit. Unless revenue increases, these departments will soon have no choice but to cut employees, Armentor said.

To read the rest of this story, please see page two of the print edition of The Cameron Parish Pilot.

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