Jury OKs $7M budget, $800,000 deficit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 15, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated to correct an error of fact. It incorrectly identified the members who were re-appointed to the board of Recreation District No. 3. Ed Bruce and Melvin Dobson were reappointed to the board. We regret the error and are happy to set the record straight.

VIDALIA — The Concordia Parish Police adopted for 2010 an approximately $7.17 million budget that will run an approximately $800,000 deficit Monday.

The budget anticipates $6,320,628 in revenues and $7,168,906 in expenditures. At the end of the budget year, the jury will have an ending balance of $4,040,964 in the bank.

“We have been working very hard on this budget for the last month or so,” President Melvin Ferrington said. “We are going to have to be very careful this year.”

One area of particular concern was the general fund, he said.

“Our expenses (to the general fund) are going to exceed our revenues by approximately $400,000,” Juror Randy Temple said. “That is coming out of our reserves. We are going to have to watch it close.”

Significant increases to employee insurance costs and mandated expenses such as the criminal court fund and the maintenance of the parish jail were the major reasons for the higher expenditures beyond what was spent last year, Ferrington said.

“The criminal court fund, that is a never ending thing, and it is one of the biggest costs we have,” he said.

Because the jury will be spending more than it will take in, no new projects — such as new roadwork — will be financed in the coming year, Temple said.

In other news:

Juror Willie Dunbar asked what the proper procedure was for the City of Vidalia to complete a proposed annex of three properties on Logan Sewell Road.

Dunbar said he had concerns — among others —that people who did not want to be annexed would be annexed.

“The cities can annex pretty much anything they want within the statutes as far as contiguous areas (to the city) are concerned,” Temple said. “If there are not any residents in the area, basically they annex it, have the maps drawn up and have a public hearing, and unless someone files a suit against them they annex it.”

Juror Jerry Beatty said he objected to the annexation.

“We can’t afford to lose any more of our tax revenue,” Beatty said. “Vidalia can’t keep on going until it gets to Ferriday. It has to stop somewhere.”

Temple said the businesses in that area would still have to pay taxes to the jury until all bond obligations for the area they were annexed from were met, but the jury’s taxes would not apply to businesses that located to the area after the annexation.

“I am sure (Vidalia has) a consultant to help with annexation,” he said. “They’re not going to go about this breaking the law.”

For the second meeting in a row, Dunbar objected to reappointing members to Recreation District No. 3 based on the recommendation of the board.

He said he was concerned about the legality of just voting up the recreation board’s recommendation.

Ferrington said it was legal to vote based on the recommendation of the board.

“Are we doing it by law, or are we doing it the traditional way?” Dunbar said. “The traditional way is to let them have their way.”

Juror Carey Cook said letting the board have their way wasn’t necessarily wrong.

“We have another appointment on a recommendation, and if it agreeable with the jurors to appoint this person, isn’t that by law?” Cook said.

When the reappointment of the members — Ed Bruce and Melvin Dobson — came to a vote, every juror but Dunbar voted in favor of reappointing them.

Dunbar made a motion that the jury ask the Louisiana Board of Ethics if Recreation District No. 3 President Marc Archer violated conflict of interest laws by purchasing land near the site of the new recreation complex.

Dunbar said the jury has already sent an identical letter to the Attorney Genera’s office, but has not received a reply.

Assistant District Attorney Ann Siddall said she questioned if sending a second letter was correct protocol, and when she asked Dunbar what he planned to do with the opinion, he said he didn’t know.

Siddall also said she doubted there would be any conflict of interest if Archer paid a fair market price for the property, and that opinions from those offices were just that — opinions.

Temple said he would vote for Dunbar’s motion because he doesn’t believe Archer has anything to hide.

“I think he bought this property after the last deal was secured,” Temple said. “On the other side of the coin, I hope we aren’t going to start dragging people over the coals.”

The jurors voted to send a letter to the area’s state and national legislative delegation to request funding to get a cost study completed on Cocodrie Bayou.

The jury needs approximately $200,000 to pay for its portion of the study, Ferrington said.

Concordia Parish Airport Authority Chair Carl Sayers announced that the airport will receive a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation — Aviation to build a new 10-bay hanger building, which he said would significantly increase the airport’s budget once the hangers are leased.