The Webster Parish Police Jury’s 2016 budget passed by a vote of 9-2 with one absent in Tuesday’s last meeting of the year.
Among the reasons for voting against the budget’s passage is the royalty fund from the Webster Parish Landfill, outgoing juror Charlie Odom said.
“I just can’t see with the way they budgeted everything, with the way the money about to go away like it’s about to, I think they need to bite the bullet instead of just going with the flow,” he said. “We’re going from roughly $600,000 on the royalties from E&P (exploration and production) waste, and I think this past month was $12,000. Money’s fixing to drop pretty good after that.”
The police jury gets a certain percentage from royalties from the landfill. Although the police jury owns the landfill, it is leased by Republic Waste Services. The police jury gets five percent on all gross revenue over $250,000, not including exploration and production waste, and 17.5 percent on exploration and production waste.
In November, the balance of the royalty fund was roughly $500,000.
Juror Daniel Thomas voted against the budget as well but for different reasons.
The arts and museums line item came under scrutiny in the finance committee meeting Tuesday as they discussed the $20,000 budgeted for Cultural Crossroads and $25,000 Dorcheat Historic Museum.
Representatives from Cullen spoke to the jury regarding much needed roof repairs to the Cullen Railroad Museum. They have two bids in, one for $6,500 and one for $10,000, but the issue is how to pay for it. Thomas says they should have done something to help the Cullen museum because he saw the severity of the disrepair.
“I was very upset and still have pretty bad heartburn over them not voting to give Cullen the funding for their museum,” he said. “We’ve sat there and voted for many, many years to fund the Dorcheat Museum, Cultural Crossroads and even the (Holiday Trail of Lights). They (Cullen Museum) need help really bad.”
He says this is the third time they’ve discussed the matter, adding talks began in October during budget meetings.
“There’s some memorabilia there that’s priceless,” he said. “They’ve got some of it covered up with tarps – I think we help the arts there, and I want to continue voting to help there – but for them not to help that museum, as bad a shape as it’s in, it just really gave me some heartburn. It was just kind of a protest.”
Several different ideas were discussed, including jurors possibly agreeing to use a portion of their discretionary funds, or using funds from economic development to help defray the costs. The jury will discuss it again in January to come up with a viable solution.
Police jury president Jim Bonsall says it’s time for the police jury to start watching its costs and trimming where they can. During the finance committee meeting Tuesday, the $25 million budget came under scrutiny as they discussed the different expenses for which they must pay. Secretary Treasurer Ronda Carnahan says this year’s budget will have about a six percent increase, but not because of additional revenue. Some of that cost is capital outlay and the bond issue for the Webster Parish Library system.
She went over several different funds, including the road budget, which was increased to $300,000.
In capital outlay, the police jury will have $1.2 million, including the $500,000 match from the jury to pay for the HVAC renovations at the Webster Parish Courthouse. Carnahan says bid openings will occur Dec. 10, with five bidders currently interested. They hope to move forward with the renovations after the first of the year.
In other business, the jury adopted the siren warning program grant application with some revisions. The deadline for any municipality in Webster Parish to turn in an application will be April 15, 2016, with it going up for approval by the jury in May 2016.
The grant will be available for up to $25,000 and approval will be based upon fund availability. The grant will come from the landfill royalty fund.
The revision included an “80 percent grant and 20 percent match from the municipality equal to the cost” was added to the grant application.
During the regular meeting, Library Director Beverly Hammett says they hope to close on the purchase of the old Walgreen’s building in Springhill, this week. The idea is, instead of renovating its current location in downtown Springhill, they will renovate the old Walgreen’s building and move that branch there.
The old pharmacy and store was built in 2007, Hammett says, and it will be easier and more cost effective to renovate that building than to spend more money on renovations to the current buildings.
The next police jury meeting will be at 10:30 a.m., Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. Swearing in of new jurors will take place at 10 a.m. before the meeting.