Calcasieu government building

An estimated $150 million in costs associated with recovering from Hurricanes Laura and Delta caused the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury’s proposed 2021 budget to jump to $397 million. The spending plan is up nearly 54 percent from the $258.5 million budgeted this year.

Parish Administrator Bryan Beam told Budget Committee members Thursday that if the disaster costs weren’t included, the proposed budget would be $247.9 million, a 4 percent drop from the current year.

“I’ve never presented anything quite like this,” Beam said of the proposed budget. “I don’t want to again because this is a major disaster recovery cost.”

Beam said insurance and FEMA will cover most of the hurricane recovery costs.

“It’s not near as bad as it looks at first glance,” he said. “Of that $150 million, we think probably all but about $15-20 million will be covered.”

The hurricanes, coupled with shutdowns related to COVID-19 and petrochemical and LNG sectors being flat because of oversupplies, impacted the parish’s economy, Beam said.

Costs related to operations are expected to be $91.2 million next year, down from $99.1 million this year. Capital spending is projected at $132 million, up from $130.8 million in the current budget. Major grants are projected at $11.92 million, down from $16.52 million this year.

Revenue

Beam said nearly 36 percent of the parish’s revenue comes from disaster recovery.

The prior year fund balance makes up 28 percent of revenue for the upcoming budget. Beam said it is needed for some capital improvement projects and operations.

“As long as you don’t do that year after year, that’s what it’s for,” he said. “We need it this year.”

The parish’s 1-cent sales tax appears to trend slightly upward next year, compared to the end of this year, Beam said. Some petrochemical plants may increase operations, while rebuilding from the storms is expected to benefit sales tax revenue.

The parish property tax base is expected to drop as low as 25 percent from nearly $2.5 billion in 2019, to less than $2 billion this year. He said this year is a reassessment, a process the tax assessor does every four years. Once hurricane-damaged homes and businesses  are repaired, those values are expected to increase, Beam said.

Gaming revenue in the parish also has a projected downward trend, going from an anticipated $29.3 million this year, to $23.1 million in 2021.

“The revenue picture is not great right now, but we can handle it,” Beam said. “It could be better than we’re thinking, but we’ve got to prepare in case it isn’t.”

Spending

Estimated disaster recovery costs are split into $90 million for repairing parish buildings and facilities, $30.2 million for picking up and removing roadside debris, and nearly $29 million to remove storm debris from drainage laterals.

Beam said the federal government covered all of the roadside debris removal costs for the first 30 days. He said hopefully it will cover 90 percent of the rest of that cost, with locals paying the remaining 10 percent. Beam said the parish is hopeful the federal government will cover 75 percent of the cost to clear debris from drainage laterals.

The drop in spending on operations is because of fewer unfilled positions, flat health care and retirement costs, as well as delaying equipment purchases. The budget includes a 2.5 percent employee wage increase.

Of the $132 million in projected spending on capital improvement projects, $77.7 million will go toward road and bridge projects, with $31.2 million going to major facilities.

Beam mentioned several road projects, including Coach Williams Road, an extension of Johnny Breaux Road and extending Ham Reid Road from Elliott Road west to Big Lake Road. Eight bridge replacement projects are also planned.

Beam also spoke about several parish facilities, including the Juvenile Justice center, expected to finish construction in the first quarter of 2021. Other facilities with work slated to begin next year include the Forensic Center, Animal Services, Burton Complex and the Calcasieu Judicial Complex.

The public can comment on the proposed budget until Dec. 17. The Budget Committee will meet Dec. 3, with formal adoption by the Police Jury set for Dec. 17.

The full budget report is online at calcasieuparish.gov.

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