LAKE CHARLES, LA(KPLC) -It's a sign of the times-- falling sales tax revenues due to the poor economy. It's already forced Calcasieu schools to make budget cuts, but what about the police jury? But while collections are down, neither the public or parish employees may ever feel the effect.
Calcasieu Police Jurors are seeing their sales taxes decline. The decline started in 2009 and seems to be worsening this year as Assistant Administrator Bryan Beam told police jurors. "If you were to take the trend that we see for the first two months of the year it's kind of scary but we would end up about eight and a half million dollars short of what we budgeted in 2010. We're hopeful this is not the trend and two months, certainly we don't want to over react."
But under parish budgeting policies the money they spend this year is what was collected last year. And with reserves they can maintain services without cuts at this point. Beam told jurors, "The good news is we're prepared. And that's really the message we want to convey. We've got some fund balances that can absorb this for some period. The key is we have to watch it very carefully."
Parish Engineer Claude Smart told jurors, "If it kept up for a period of a couple or three years then we would start hurting because our roads couldn't be overlayed on a timely basis. But in the road program we'd be okay for at least a couple of years. Whereas the operating budget would feel the pinch sooner."
If the trend continues Smart says he'd prefer to eliminate a service rather than cut across the board. "Our preference is to cut out a service instead of cut them all, you know, start doing them all down to a level of mediocrity. Our preference is to cut one out and try to do the rest of them well. But for now parish officials will keep a close eye on the situation with the hope that the economy will improve causing sales tax revenues to come back up again."
The police jury has two sales taxes on purchases in the areas outside the cities in Calcasieu Parish. One of those taxes comes up for renewal in May.