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|Sound finances prompt Church to propose lowering millage|
Ouachita Parish Mosquito Abatement District No. 1 expects to have a surplus this year, and director Dr. Cole Church believes the 1.99 mills property tax recently approved by voters could be rolled back in light of the district's sound finances.
Church provided the Ouachita Parish Police Jury with the district's 2008 amended budget and its 2009 proposed budget Monday during the police jury's first budget hearing.
In a March special election, parish voters approved the 10-year, 1.99 mills property tax for mosquito abatement efforts.
According to the Ouachita Parish Tax Assessor's Office, 2009 revenue from the ad valorem tax will yield $1,561,372, with interest income estimated at $25,000.
The previous 1.17 millage expired in 2008.
"The goal is to have one year's operating expense in reserve," Church said. "Once that is obtained, we should roll back the millage as we promised voters."
Next year, Church plans to strengthen the concentration of insecticide, which will increase the insecticide budget from $270,000 to $360,000.
Church also wants to increase the budget for aerial spraying from $80,000 to $240,000.
"This will allow me to respond much more rapidly to nuisance mosquitoes, similar to what we experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav," Church said.
"Prior to the adjustment in the budget for the new millage, we could not afford to spray for nuisance mosquitoes, which are those that are not routinely associated with disease transmission," Church explained. "However, those are the ones I get the most calls on. With the new budget, we should be able to do a lot more similar to what we did with Hurricane Gustav."
"In all honesty, if we didn't have that adjusted millage, I wouldn't have been able to spray like I did for Gustav," Church added.
Church also wants to increase salaries for his permanent staff by five percent and up to five percent for part-time staff, depending on the length of service and hours they've worked this year. He has budgeted almost $20,000 for the wage increases.
"We're very dependent on part-time staff, our seasonal employees," Church continued. "That's all of our night drivers and a couple of summer workers. Those who have been with us five to six years, we should give them the most, or five percent."
Fuel cost also has been increased in spite of a recent decline in gasoline prices.
"I'm going to be pessimistic because I do think fuel prices will continue to go up," Church said.
He has proposed increasing the fuel allowance from $35,000 to $45,000.