Iberia Parish President Larry Richard went over an impressive list of accomplishments Thursday night during his State of the Parish address.
A dozen rebuilt bridges across the parish. New capital outlay projects coming for the Port of Iberia and the Acadiana Regional Airport. Work on the iberia Parish Courthouse, veterans buildings and a new Public Works facility.
But the highlight was saved for last, when he described the still delicate but strengthening financial position of the parish.
“We are moving in the right direction,” he said to the crowd of about 75 people at the Sliman Theater. “Iberia Parish is looking up.”
In making his presentation, Richard went beyond the last 12 months to include financials from 2014, showing the impact of the slowing petroleum industry on the parish’s coffers over the last five years. As the oil revenue decreased and bonded debt increased — much of it passed during the previous administration to cover the very projects Richard extolled in the opening of his presentation — the parish became upside down on its debt.
“All of our royalty fund income was going to debt service,” Richard said.
The biggest victim of that drop in revenue, Richard said, was road maintenance. Without the largesse of the royalty fund numbers from the past, there is not enough funding to provide for a maintenance program let alone create new roads.
“This year, we only had $200,000 to spend on materials for roads,” Richard said. “We can’t do overlay projects with that. We are looking at what we have and what we need to do, and it’s not going to work.”
On a positive note, he was able to demonstrate in his presentation that under his administration that upside-down debt has been slowly righted even though the royalty income for 2018 was only $900,000 to balance against $1.4 million in debt service.
“When you look at our 2018 audit, we are spending less than we are receiving,” Richard said. “We are staying within our budget forecast.”
He also pointed to the audit’s finding that the parish has increased its available days of reserve cash from 30 days in 2015 to 78 days at the end of the 2018 fiscal year. Part of that increase is not from an increase in reserves but from a lowering of the parish’s daily spending, from over $16,000 a day in 2014 to around $12,000 a day at the end of 2018.
“Our daily expenses are down 24 percent,” Richard said.
Another positive he was able to show the audience is a slightly brighter sales tax picture for the parish. During 2019, Richard said sales tax receipts have gone up and average of 31 percent.
“We’re on the way up,” he said. “We’re not back where we were yet, but we are heading in the right direction.”