The Webster Parish Police Jury may be facing a near $1 million decline in revenue in 2017 and Treasure/Secretary Ronda Carnahan notified the jurors before the November meeting with suggestions to offset the 2017 budget.

The jury’s general fund may be affected while funds from Ad Valorem tax, revenue sharing and occupational licenses are “holding steady,” General Severance and Timber Tax is down approximately $500,000.

“I do not foresee this coming up in 2017,” Carnahan explained to jurors. “It will be necessary to transfer from the special general fund to be able to meet budget.”
Expenditures that are not considered “essential funding” are suggested to be reduced by 20 percent.

Those areas include Council on Aging, Coordinating and Development Council, Trailblazers, Economic Development, North Louisiana Economic Partnership, Minden Trail of Lights, Interstate 69 corridor, Juror Recreation, Arts an Museum and Sparta Expense.

In addition to these proposed cuts, employees may not see cost of living raises. Not yet included in the 2017 projected budget are Courthouse Annex utilities and operating expenses.

This has caused concern for some jurors with the anticipation that the courthouse annex would be renovated next year.

“Especially with the expected decline in revenue for 2017, should we be considering such an extensive project when financial times are so bleak?” asked Nick Cox, District 8 juror.

Jerri Lee, juror for District 9, said the jury operates several budgets, many of which have allocated revenue streams.

“One revenue stream may go down and the budget it is tied to is affected,” she said. “While another budget’s funding is secured, often backed by state or federal funds, and that budget and its projects are secure.”

Funding for the Courthouse Annex renovation will come from the jury’s ‘Courthouse Fund.’

“We have been building a reserve for the purpose of renovation and construction projects,” Carnahan said. “Those are dedicated funds for construction and maintenance of the Courthouse, Annex, Extension office and Health Unit.”

WPPJ President Jim Bonsall, District 6, had hoped the annex building project bids could be received and reviewed in the December committee meeting.

“That’s when the financial discussion would have taken place,” he said. “We have the building and maintenance fund for projects like this and have been anticipating it for sometime. The next step is getting real numbers from the bids and seeing how that affects the project.”
Carnahan said the jury’s Building and Maintenance fund is generated with a tax levied specifically for that purpose.

“Those funds cannot be moved to the general budget to pay for salaries or added to road funds to help with repairs,” she said. “We must use those funds on the building and maintenance of the courthouse, the annex, the extension office and so on.”

The courthouse is currently having HVAC work and other projects being performed, funded from the Building and Maintenance budget.

With regards to road funds, the sales tax which supplies much of the revenue for road projects has earned the jury approximately $400,000 less in 2016 and it is not expected for those funds to increase in 2017.

The jury will meet Tuesday as a committee to review suggestions and find solutions to a proposed 2017 budget, which is on the jury’s December agenda.