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The Ouachita Parish Police Jury plans to dip into its $7-million fund balance to cover a deficit of some $1.3 million during 2020 because the parish governing authority plans to buy new office space and hike police juror salaries.

The Police Jury discussed its proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year during a finance committee meeting last week. Under the proposed 2020 budget, the Police Jury expects to collect some $6.9 million in revenue while spending some $7.9 million. After all transfers, the Police Jury projects to end 2020 with a deficit of some $1.3 million.

The 2020 budget encompasses the general fund as well as other departmental funds and other governmental funds, like the district attorney’s office.

The parish treasurer’s office is expected to modify the Police Jury’s general fund, or main operating fund, to project a balanced budget before final adoption during the Police Jury’s regular meeting Monday evening. Discussion of how to balance the general fund budget threatened to lengthen the two-hour meeting.

“Just find it somewhere,” said interim Police Juror Kay Katz, before the finance committee adjourned.

Major expenditures in 2020 could include new office space, police juror salaries, lobbying fees, support for a beautification efforts and more.

The six police jurors are currently paid $14,400 a year. Under the proposed budget for 2020, their salaries would climb to $20,000 a year.

The Police Jury plans to spend $1.2 million in 2020 to buy the Ouachita Parish School Board’s three central office buildings in downtown Monroe to expand the parish governing authority’s office space. In addition to the purchase price, the Police Jury expects to spend up to $520,000 in moving and renovation expenditures as well as $450,000 a year for utility bills and maintenance costs.

Other projected expenditures include $300,000 for a new courthouse elevator, some $73,000 for pump station repairs, and $40,000 to pay for a lobbyist to represent the Police Jury’s interests at the state Legislature in Baton Rouge.

The Police Jury also plans to increase spending on professional services, which could rise from $20,000 in 2019 to a projected $225,000 to support Ouachita Strong, an initiative to secure federal funding for flood prevention projects.

“That has helped us get into this watershed initiative,” said Cammack, referring to some $1.2 billion in federal grant funding available to parishes in the state affected by flooding.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the Ouachita Strong initiative as a beautification effort. The Ouachita Strong initiative was formed by various governmental bodies, non-profits and other organizations to seek federal funding for projects stemming severe flooding in the area. The Ouachita Citizen regrets the error.

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