The common thread through most of the presentations during the first of three meetings on the 2022 Iberia Parish consolidated budget document was that the various parish departments will continue to eat into existing fund balances during 2022 in order to balance their individual budgets.
The budgets reviewed Monday included the Public Library Fund, which will run a $458,000 deficit; the Recreation and Playground Fund, $228,000 deficit; Mosquito Control, $41,830 increase but not a deficit because it returns funds to the other entities in the parish; Fire Protection District No. 1, $531,988 deficit; and Communications District, $180,000 deficit.
Of the seven departments which presented their spending plans to the council for discussion Monday night, only Rabies Control came in without using money from previous years to balance this year’s budget. But in that case, council members questioned whether the numbers in the document were realistic.
Interim Director Herff Jones, who is also the executive director of the parish’s mosquito abatement district, went through a slideshow presentation highlighting his “strategery,” along with a proposal to eliminate the full-time director position, instead keeping him on as the director and adding more animal control staff. But District 5 Councilman Warren Gachassin disagreed with some of the projections for the coming year’s expenses, specifically drops in farm and medical supplies.
“You say you have these seven hundred an fifty animals coming through, but you are cutting back on supplies,” Gachassin said. “How can that work?”
Jones said he is still in the process of having the staff code all of the expenses so he can have a better idea of how the agency’s funds are being spent.
“I have no experience of what went on before,” Jones said, explaining that much of the coding prior to his taking over was done in the parish accounting office, not in the Rabies Control department.
“They were doing their best guess, but they weren’t really sure where the expenses should be coded,” he said.
Jones was also questioned during his Iberia Parish Mosquito Abatement District presentation, when Gachassin asked why the disbursement of surplus funds from the IPMAD sales tax were a third lower in the 2022 budget. Parish Finance Director Kim Segura explained that the decrease was because $500,000 was kept in reserve, to be used in event of an emergency. But Gachassin still questioned the numbers.
“We do that every year,” Gachassin said. “So it should not be lower for the coming year.”
The surplus funds are distributed across the parish and incorporated areas based on population for drainage projects at the end of each year.
On the Communication District and Homeland Security budget, Executive Director Prescott Marshall said that he was hoping to be able to pay off a bond issue early, saving the parish some $20,000. That plan may not be doable this year, however. If the bond were paid out, the district’s deficit would be $828,000, not $180,000.
Because the Communication District is breaking in its new facility at the Acadiana Regional Airport, some of its expenses are still in flux. Because he said he was having issues with some of the estimates from vendors, District 8 Councilman James Trahan, an air conditioning contractor by trade, offered to help out.
“I can look over that HVAC contract for you,” Trahan said, gesturing toward the budget spreadsheet printout. “I can read that a lot better than this.”