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Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017

FIRST LOOK

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2018 Operating and Capital

Outlay Budget for Caddo Commission

The inch-thick binder handed out to Caddo Commissioners on Halloween Eve by Caddo Administrator Dr. Woodrow Wilson had a few surprises, and mainly “good news” for taxpayers. There may, however, be questions about a proposed employee pay raise, funding of the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC), animal shelter and discretionary funds of Wilson.

The parish’s proposed expenditures are $76,769,774, which represents a 2 percent increase over the 2017 budget.

Highlights of the budget include:

• 3 percent “pay adjustment” for all 434 parish employees.

• 2 percent increase for the group medical program.

•.75 percent decrease in the retirement contributions by the Parish.

• Increase in the juvenile justice fund to add five new positions.

• 2.6 percent increase in funds to operate Caddo Correctional Center (CCC).

• 10 percent decrease in streets and sanitation expenses.

• An increase in the capital outlay program of $2.6 million.

The new positions at the Juvenile Justice Center are needed to address the mandate from the state to house 17-yearolds in juvenile detention instead of the adult facility at CCC. The increased costs for CCC is attributable to prisoner medical care, and especially increased drug costs. The streets/sanitation decrease is attributable to the decline in sales tax rebates. The increase in the central outlay budget is due, in part, to a $3 million expenditure for new jail locks at the detention center.

Ad valorem taxes represent the major source of funding for the parish. Property taxes are 70 percent of the budget. Sales taxes are 13 percent. Intergovernmental funds from the state of Louisiana, state severance taxes, grants and revenue sharing represent approximately 8 percent of total revenues. The balance of funding is from interest and rents, licenses, permits and gaming.

The parish levies a number of special millages which are dedicated for specific purposes. The dedicated funds are for public works, parks and recreation, courthouse maintenance, detention facilities, juvenile court, public health, Shreve Memorial Library, Biomedical Center and Criminal Justice Center.

The parish also provides funding for several parish agencies. These include the District Attorney’s Office, the Coroner’s Office, Registrar of Voters, LSU Extension Service, Caddo Parish Juvenile Court and the Biomedical Research Foundation.

How much revision in the budget will be made by the Commission is an open question.

Some observers believe the suggested pay raise for all parish employees will be debated. Unlike the city of Shreveport, parish employees have received several pay raises in the last 10 years.

The $230,000 line item for the parish contribution to the MPC may also be questioned. The city of Shreveport is considering the establishment of an internal planning office. Many observers believe that the parish zoning/permits can be handled internally by the parish at a major cost savings.

Another funding issue may concern the operations of the Caddo Parish Animal Shelter. The proposed budget has a line item of $2.8 million for animal services and mosquito control.

Animal advocates believe a non-profit organization could successfully operate the shelter at a cost savings to the parish. A feasibility study of privatization is due in early December.

Some commissioners have carped over what they believe are unrestricted funds that can be spent by Administrator Wilson. The budget breakdown, which is by the specific millage, lists administration costs in several budgets. Getting a handle on how all the administrative fees are actually expended may be the concern to some commissioners.

The Commission budget must be accepted by Dec. 5, and the Commission will have a public hearing on the proposed budget on Nov. 14.

John E. Settle Jr. has been a resident of Shreveport since January 1977. His articles appear regularly in local publications. He can be reached at 742-5513 or e-mail to: John@jesettle.com.

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