(Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, November 22, 2012 8:22 PM
An improving local economy has given Calcasieu Parish enough revenue to provide public services, which are expected to increase over time, said Parish Administrator Bryan Beam.
“It’s good for the residents (and) the companies, and it has helped our revenue trends start to tick upward,” he said of the economic boost. “We are able to provide a high level of service without having to increase tax rates.”
Beam spoke with the American Press this week about the parish’s financial outlook for 2013. The proposed budget is $145.3 million — about $3 million more than the $142.3 million allocated in its current budget.
Operating expenses are expected to go from $64.6 million this year to $67.5 million next year — a 4.5 percent increase. That is partially because of a 2.25 percent adjustment for employee salaries and a 1 percent increase in the parish’s contribution for retirement plans that the Parochial Employee Retirement System requires.
Capital expenses are expected to go up from $45.8 million this year to $47 million next year — an increase of nearly 3 percent. The grant money for 2013 is projected to be $25.1 million, down from $25.8 million this year.
Sales and property taxes — the parish’s main revenue sources — are improving, Beam said. According to the budget report, next year’s property tax revenue is expected to “rise by 5.9 percent” over this year.
Beam said the parish is “conservatively budgeting” the revenue they expect to get from sales taxes for the rest of this year because they tend to be more volatile.
Beam said the parish has budgeted about the same amount of gambling revenue for next year as it did this year.
Beam said most of next year’s capital money will pay for maintaining 1,200-plus miles of roads and bridges in the unincorporated areas.
One particular project is the extension of Corbina Road from La. 14 north to East Prien Lake Road. Beam said the improvements could open vacant property up for future economic growth.
The East McNeese Street extension was finished last month and was a joint venture between the parish and the city of Lake Charles. It connects La. 14 and La 397 and includes a roundabout at Corbina Road.
Beam said the flat roofs on the Calcasieu Courthouse will be replaced, and the Calcasieu Sheriff’s Office administrative building will get a new roof.
The Southwest Louisiana Entrepreneurial and Economic Development Center, or SEED, should be finished by March. Located on Ryan Street across from McNeese State University, it will serve as an economic development hub for the five-parish area.
Beam said work should begin next year on the first phase of River Bluff Park, located near the old U.S. 171 boat launch in Moss Bluff. Crews will renovate the boat launch and build a paved parking lot.
Renovation work continues at the Burton Coliseum complex, including a new roof, restroom upgrades, and making the facility comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Beam said the work should finish by the end of 2013.
“We’re turning it into a building we can be proud of,” he said.
Beam said Calcasieu Point Landing will undergo several improvements, including an amphitheater, open air pavilion and deck. The park — located at Henry Pugh Boulevard — was closed in October and will not reopen until December next year.
Beam said several drainage projects will begin next year, including Choupique and Boys Village roads, Ellis and Linda drives and the Mossville area. The projects are paid with Community Development Block Grants and Road and Drainage Trust Fund money.