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|Police jury poised to adopt budget|
Much of Monday's Ouachita Parish Police Jury meeting dealt with budgetary matters as police jurors worked to approve an $81 million budget for the 2009 fiscal year, which begins Jan. 1.
A special called meeting will be held Monday, Dec. 22, where the police jury is expected to adopt its budget for the new fiscal year. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.
Most of the discussion during the police jury's meeting earlier this week involved trimming the police jury's general fund budget for 2009.
Approximately 75 percent of expenditures in the police jury's general fund are mandated by state law, said finance committee chairman Charles Jackson, who represents part of western Ouachita Parish.
"We really have no control but to fund (those expenditures)," Jackson said. "There's also an additional 10 to 12 percent that's really necessities in operating parish government, so that leaves very little funding available for us to take care of anything that doesn't have a dedicated funding source."
"Now we've got to make the hard decisions to figure out where we want to go," he said.
Over the past several years, according to Jackson, the police jury has worked to maintain about $2 million in its general fund. The police jury also works to keep $2 million on hand in cash.
"We are no where close to that, but the proposal is to try to hold us even with last year," Jackson said.
Current projections shows the general fund will end the 2009 fiscal year with a cash deficit of $74,466 and possess an ending fund balance of $1.8 million.
However, the police jury made some cuts in some areas and hopes to end the 2009 fiscal year with $125,534 in cash balance and have an ending fund balance in the general fund of over $2 million.
To cut costs, the police jury agreed to reduce expenditures for upgrades to the Ouachita Parish Courthouse from $100,000 to $60,000.
The jury also decided to reduce an appropriation for Northeast Louisiana Regional Economic Development Alliance by $10,000. Instead of giving the alliance $50,000, the NLREDA will receive $40,000 in 2009. The alliance originally asked for $75,000. NLREDA also has requested a three-year commitment from the police jury for funding.
The alliance is comprised of Ouachita, Lincoln, Morehouse, Jackson, and Union Parishes.
This group is expected to begin operations by the first of the year and wants to raise $3 million over a three-year period.
One of the goals the new alliance hopes to achieve entails creating 1,500 new, high-quality jobs, with a payroll of $30 million to $40 million annually. The new jobs would bring about $450 million in new capital investments to the area.
Meanwhile, the police jury declined to cut any of the $200,000 appropriated for off-road drainage work since there are numerous areas throughout the parish that flood whenever there is heavy rainfall.
Police jurors Dorth Blade, Mack Calhoun and Pat Moore said there are areas in their respective districts that need work to prevent future flooding.
Off-road drainage projects included in the 2009 fiscal year budget total $320,490. The police jury must decide on which projects to eliminate from the list to keep off-road drainage work at the appropriated $200,000 level.
Public Works director John Tom Murray said the cost projections for each project are only estimates and prices could be higher than expected. He suggested the police jury come up with a working list of off-road drainage projects it wants to tackle during 2009. From that list, Murray said Public Works can then come back with better cost projections.