LETTER: Reader wary of budget claims

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

The following observations related to the Ascension Parish amended 2008 and 2009 proposed budget should wake up every taxpaying citizen.

The 2008 Ascension Parish budget was $107 million. In the first year of their four-year term, the current administration and council increased expenditures by $12 million. The 2008 budget will be amended for a grand total of $119 million. The proposed 2009 budget is $92.4 million.

Lest you think that the 2009 budget is slimmer, consider that capital Projects in 2009 decreased $18 million over ‘08. If this decrease is subtracted from $107 million budget adopted in 2008 it would put the 2009 budget at $89 million. The proposed 2009 budget is $3 million more. Revenues in ‘09 are projected to be up almost $8 million over ‘08. I question the claim that this is a slimmer budget. What do you think? Outstanding parish debt is now almost $88 million.

In 2007, actual salaries and benefits were almost $15 million In 2008, $17.8 million and in 2009 $21 million is budgeted.

There are 30 additional personnel listings for 2009. This means they are budgeted, but not necessarily filled. Why budget them and not fill them? It’s not too hard see this is one place the budget can be trimmed.

With the defeat of the Lamar-Dixon tax proposition most of the $422,500 budgeted for seven months of operating Lamar-Dixon could be channeled to current needs in recreation by terminating the lease immediately with a 90 day prior written notice. Watch to see if the parish president and council continue putting money into a facility 59 percent of the people said they don’t want. Remember and say no to future taxes.

An additional $750,000 for upgrading existing parks has been budgeted. This is being transferred out of the Ascension Parish Insurance Fund. Will this money be returned? Should we presume upon the future? Insurance costs were down last year. Is the 15 percent increase in insurance premiums for ’09 really padding the budget?

If those in the Pelican Point area and industry were told the truth that the parish will be sitting on a million dollar nest egg at the end of 2009 in Lighting District 6 after paying utilities, that there is no plan to use this money and no movement to roll back this tax, would they support future taxes?

A total of $218,500 is budgeted with “no listing submitted” in Capital Projects. After reviewing the budget I asked about the $100,000 listed under general administration. I was told this was intended to enclose the Ascension Civic Center for storage space if the tax for Lamar-Dixon failed. The jail has $91,500 earmarked the same. Departments that do not give an itemized list prior to Nov. 20 should not be given taxpayers dollars to play with. If the specific item is known, it should be listed. Doing otherwise is dishonest.

Next year, Parish President Tommy Martinez and some on the council are planning to come to the voting public asking for more money; $100,000 is in the budget for a tax proposition. They might want to reconsider in light of the current economic climate and the recent defeat of the Lamar-Dixon tax proposition. The more we are taxed the tighter we hold our wallets.

A public hearing is scheduled prior to a vote on the budget at 7 p.m. at the Nov. 20 council meeting in Gonzales.

It’s time for elected officials to realize they cannot tax us into prosperity. It’s time for taxpaying citizens to wake up, be informed, get involved and say no to more taxes.

Kathryn Goppelt