St. Charles Herald-Guide

$22 million for West Bank levee included in proposed budget

By Jonathan Menard - October 29, 2012

Parish President V.J. St. Pierre has released his proposed budget for 2013, which includes $22.6 million set aside for the construction of the West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee.

The total cost of the levee is estimated to exceed $150 million, but the parish plans to begin construction on the Willowridge phase of the project next year. Parish officials have said they have all the necessary funds to complete that phase, which would protect the neighborhoods of Willowridge and Willowdale.

"This project is of extreme importance to the West Bank of our parish and even though its total funding is far beyond the capacity of our parish, we must continue to work for its permitting and construction," St. Pierre said in his budget message.

The 2013 budget includes expenditures of $139.7 million, an increase over last year’s $119 million spending plan. The parish expects revenues of $164 million next year, with $66.8 million of that coming from taxes and nearly $60 million in fund balances carried over from 2012.

In addition to sales and property taxes, the parish also receives taxes from the sale of alcoholic beverages, cable franchise revenues and the airport expansion agreement. Taxes make up about 62 percent of the parish’s revenue.

The parish expects to end 2012 with a balance of $34.8 million in the general fund, but plans to spend $26 million of that in 2013. The large majority ($18.7 million) is budgeted towards the West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee.

While that means that the parish will only have about $8 million left in the general fund by the end of 2013, St. Pierre said it will give the parish some breathing room in case of a disaster. He said that Hurricane Isaac cost the parish around $4 million.

Last year, the Parish Council passed a law that required at least $7 million in the parish’s general fund.

Another chunk of the parish’s budget includes $15.9 million for road and drainage projects in 2013. In 2012, the parish budgeted $30.7 million for similar projects that are expected to be complete by the end of the year.

The Parish Council will hold three budget hearings, the first of which took place on Tuesday. Two other meeting are scheduled for this Thursday at 6 p.m. and Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m.

The hearings will take place in the council chambers, which is located on the second floor of the St. Charles Parish Courthouse.

A copy of the budget is available on the parish’s web site at www.stcharlesparish-la.gov.