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Council member Harold Taylor

Parish Council wary of its finances as it considers weed spraying

The St. Landry Parish Council delayed a decision about spraying weeds along its roads.
With Council members holding a teleconference meeting Wednesday, what would have been a routine expense came under the microscope.
Last year the Council approved spraying instead of mowing the weeds as a cost-cutting measure.
This year even spraying, estimated to cost about $70,000 in areas without special taxing districts. The total cost for the parish was estimated at $120,000 at the Council’s regular meeting two weeks ago.
On Wednesday, the Council’s Public Works Committee chaired by Jimmie Edwards took up the spraying issue.
Russell Schexnider, public works director, asked for delay while he researches the issue. The special taxing districts can afford to pay for the spraying, but the areas outside the district, which is most of the parish, may be stretching the parish Road and Bridge Fund.
Schexnider said Acadia Parish, which has equipment and a certified operator, has offered its assistance, he said.
Schexnider said he is looking into contractors.
Council member Harold Taylor said, “If we can borrow equipment and labor from another parish and do it for substantially less why would we want to pay a contractor? My suggestion is we sit on it and let you do your research.”
Council member Timmy Lejeune said he is also researching the issue and asked that no decision be made.
But Taylor had another reason to move cautiously.
“Look, here’s the deal. Our budget for public roads and bridges is $2.2 million, $1.4 of that comes from racinos and I can tell you it has been shutdown for two months. How much longer is it going to be shutdown, we don’t know,” he said.
Taylor said another $720,000 in revenue is budgeted to come from the state transportation taxes.
“As you know gas sales are half what it was when we budgeted this money. So we may end up with half of $2.2 million,” he said.
“Maybe we need to give Russell a week or two to get stuff together,” he said.
Lejeune said it is possible enough money can be saved to get the roadsides sprayed.
But he added, “We don’t have a whole lot of money in public works.”
On Friday, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor issued a report projecting losses due to the COVID-19 slowdown and the collapse of oil prices.
St. Landry Parish is projected to have 4.8% decrease in revenues.
“We estimate that parish governing authorities, municipalities, school boards, and sheriffs will collectively experience revenue losses in sales, ad valorem, and severance taxes and mineral royalties ranging from $404.7 million to $1.1 billion (2.3% to 6.9%) during fiscal years 2020 and 2021, with an average total loss of $787.5 million (4.6%).
“These losses would be between 1.0% to 2.8% of total local government revenues from all sources, or 1.4% to 4.0% of general revenues (which excludes grants and charges for services). These estimates are based on assumptions that the number of people employed in Louisiana will decrease by 197,000 to 317,000 (as distinguished from unemployment claims) and will take two to five years to recover ...” a report summary stated.
Amanda Cain, parish finance director, said she expects to be able to project the Parish Council’s budget for the year in June.

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