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|Police jury poised to craft 2010 budget|
The Ouachita Parish Police Jury will begin work soon to craft its budget for the 2010 fiscal year.
Police juror Charles Jackson, who serves as the parish's finance committee chairman, said budget discussion could begin as early as next week during the police jury's regular meeting.
The police jury's 2009 fiscal year ends Dec. 31.
Typically, the police jury likes to have next year's fiscal year budget adopted by the end of December each year, Jackson said.
The parish's general fund and the Ouachita Correctional Center budgets will be the most challenging to tackle this year, Jackson said.
Ouachita Correctional Center is on track to post a $1.1 million deficit at the end of the current fiscal year. The deficit at OCC has been an issue widely discussed by police jurors throughout the year. The deficit stems from the high number of pretrial detainees and overpopulation at the parish prison. Roughly 60 percent of the inmates at OCC are awaiting trial. The parish is not reimbursed for providing space and care for pretrial detainees.
This week the head count at OCC listed 505 pre-trial detainees and 341 Department of Corrections inmates.
"Ideally, we need that (DOC population) to be 400," Jackson said.
"OCC is an on-going challenge," Jackson said. "It will have a deficit this year and while certainly there has been improvement there, we've got some discussion ahead of us to figure it out."
The current property tax that provides funding for OCC could be up for renewal as early as next year, Jackson said.
In the meantime, Jackson said jail officials have worked to cut expenses at OCC.
Warden Brian Newcomer has taken steps to cut back on overtime pay at the jail as well as tackle other cost-saving measures, Jackson said.
"So, we probably have squeaked out as much cost savings as we're going to squeak out," Jackson said.
Besides the OCC budget, Jackson said police jurors will have to closely scrutinize the police jury's general fund budget.
"The general fund is always a challenge for us," Jackson said. "It is the only area undesignated but the only fund to provide for the District Attorney's office, the (4th Judicial District) judges, the coroner and registrar of voters. All support for the courthouse also comes from this fund and it is almost always stressed."
The police jury is required by state law to provide funding to support the operation of those offices.
"About 77 percent of all the monies that go into the general fund are used to provide for these obligations under state law, so there's very little available in the general fund," Jackson said.
In the next few weeks, the police jury will set millage rates to be levied in the parish in 2010, according to Jackson.
Last year the police jury raised three millages, left six millages at the same level and lowered two millages.
Jackson doubts there will be many changes to the current millage rates when the police jury sets the rates for 2010.
"The only one that may be changed is Green Oaks because they had to adjust some job classes, and we may have to adjust the millage for that," Jackson said. "So, we may end up doing something for Green Oaks, but for the most part, I anticipate the millages will stay flat."
Last year the police jury lowered Green Oaks millage rate from 2.91 mills to 2.65 mills.