President's Report-November 14, 2023
REDUCTION OF SERVITUDE LIMITS-ITEM 5 OF PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE AGENDA
Item 5 of the agenda for the Public Works Committee meeting is the discussion of an ordinance seeking the reduction of the servitude limits of a parish drainage lateral to accommodate a proposed residential development located south of the I-10 overpass on La. Highway 31, on the west side of the highway. This matter was presented to the Parish Council on April 18, 2023 for discussion. A proposed ordinance for the reduction had been introduced at the Council’s regular meeting of April 4, 2023, and was voted on at the Council regular meeting of May 2, 2023, at which time it was rejected by a 6-3 vote. The canal in question is one which provides for a 100-foot servitude on both sides of the lateral under the dictates of La. R.S. 38:113.
The concerns expressed by the majority of the Council addressed the fact that the developer of the proposed subdivision has requested a reduction in the 100-foot servitude of the lateral in question at its western boundary of the proposed subdivision. Our Public Works personnel had studied the request and opined that a reduction to 50 feet on both sides would be sufficient to permit access for maintenance pursuits. However, the plat of the subdivision reflected that the proposed road in the subdivision was situated within the fifty feet reduced limits as was a portion of Lot 17 of the development. Moreover, the road itself traversed the bed of the lateral. Inexplicably, between the original discussion of this matter at the Council committee meeting on April 18, 2023, and date the proposed ordinance was considered on May 2, 2023, the developers had not addressed the concerns of the Parish.
Approximately three months later, on August 12, 2023, the staff and I conferred with the developers and explained what should be accomplished in order for the problems of the Council to be reasonably assuaged. As a consequence thereof, the proposed plat of the development has now been substantially revised and another ordinance was introduced at your regular meeting on November 7, 2023. In my view, there remain concerns which needs to be addressed/explained including:
- The proposed drainage plan although this is an issue which I am sure will be discussed by Planning & Zoning;
- The fact that a part of the cul de sac of the road infringes on the reduced fifty-foot reduced servitude, albeit only a small area is implicated; and
- No mention is made as to when the undeveloped phase will transpire, especially since the phase will require that the road to access the area will traverse the bed of the involved canal.
Finally, for the reader’s easy reference, I repeat these remarks from my prior reports of August and October of this year relative to reduction of servitudes established under the dictates of R.S. 38:113:
“I remind you that La. R.S. 38:113 grants unto parish drainage districts control of canals specifically selected as part of a parish-wide drainage system. The limits of the servitude are one hundred feet on both sides of the bed of the of selected lateral. By Resolution adopted by the Parish on February 27, 1973, 348 laterals were designated as forming part of the St. Martin Parish drainage system. Moreover, in past reports, I have noted for your edification that:
‘There are two salient aspects associated with such a statutorily created servitude. First, the Parish may reduce the limits of any such servitude at its discretion and on a case-by-case basis. However, any such reduction must be by Ordinance under the dictates of Section 2-11 of the Home Rule Charter. Second, despite the servitude rights afforded by the statute, any damage to the personal property of a landowner occasioned by the activities of the Parish in exercising its servitude rights is subject to compensation from the Parish. Two court decisions which discuss this principle involve St. Martin Parish: Dugas v. St. Martin Parish Police Jury, 351 So.2d 271 (LA. App. 3 Cir. 1977) Berard v. St. Martin Parish Government, 13-114 (La. App. 3 Cir. 6/5/13), 115 So.3d 761. Candidly, these decisions in my view improvidently and unreasonably extended the obligations and rights legislatively afforded local governing authorities.
As a consequence of this judicially recognized and enforced principle, there are numerous practical problems which have developed in exercising the maintenance rights and obligations associated with these “38:113” servitudes. These problems include:
Cases where property owners have planted trees and/or constructed buildings, fences, and similar structures within the servitudes;
The development of subdivisions with homes, outbuildings, fences, and other structures within the servitude;
Laterals which run through municipalities whether as a product of annexation or otherwise; and,
Therefore, frequently in such instances the Parish cannot access the bed of a lateral for cleaning, enlargement, and/or related maintenance endeavors because of encroachments such as buildings, fences, or trees having been placed within the limits of the servitude. To do so would result is substantial consequential damage to such property which in turn would expose to Parish to monetary liability in accordance with the legal principles enunciated in the jurisprudence.’
Finally, I feel constrained to reference Resolution Number 23-080-RS which the Council adopted on October 3, 2023. That edicts identifies pertinent factors to consider when vetting requests for reductions of the servitude limits established by La. R.S. 38:113.”
SPOIL BANK LITIGATION
As a summary of the subject litigation, I remind you that there have been three (3) separate suits regarding the issues with the furtive, and alleged illegal, removal of the spoil banks by Lafayette Consolidated Government in February of 2022. On March 15, 2022, at a special meeting, the Council approved of the institution of litigation seeking the remediation of the unprecedented actions of LCG. Since that time, there have been three pertinent suits involving this matter:
Lafayette City-Parish Government v. St. Martin Parish Government and The United States of America, bearing NumberC-20221498 of the Docket of the 15th Judicial District Court in and for Lafayette Parish, Louisiana;
Lafayette City-Parish Government v. St. Martin Parish Government and The United States of America, Civil Action Number 22-CV-01127 of the docket of the United States District Court, Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette, Division; and
St. Martin Parish Government v. Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government, bearing Number 91813-F of the docket of the 16th Judicial District Court in and for St. Martin Parish, Louisiana.
The first suit was filed by LCG in Lafayette Parish seeking a declaratory judgment that no laws were violated by virtue of its surreptitious removal of the spoil banks. Because the United States Army Corps of Engineers was named as a defendant, the case was removed (“sent”) to federal court. In the federal court proceedings, St. Martin Parish urged several motions seeking a dismissal of LCG’s infirm claims, as did the Army Corps of Engineers. After four separate amended complaints by LCG, the Court finally dismissed all of the claims by LCG except one in which LCG had vainly argued that an ordinance adopted by the St. Martin Council to prevent the removal of a levee (spoil bank) without its permission was illegal. That sole remaining issue was sent back to state court in Lafayette Parish where the suit was first filed by LCG.
Immediately, upon the Federal Court’s decision, St. Martin Parish filed a motion to the effect that Lafayette Parish is not the proper court to entertain this sole remaining claim of LCG. This motion is scheduled to be argued on November 20, 2023, in Lafayette Parish. If St. Martin Parish Government prevails, which is anticipated, the case will either be dismissed or transferred to St. Martin Parish for adjudication.
It is significant to note that St. Martin Parish has filed suit in the 16th Judicial District Court against Lafayette City Parish Government. Now that the federal litigation has been resolved, and once this issue in the Lafayette Court is resolved, we will be in a position to AT LONG LAST litigate this matter in the proper court in the proper Parish which is where the misconduct of LCG transpired in February 2022.
Finally, as expected, on October 23, 2023, LCG has sought an appeal of the Federal Court’s dismissal of its claims. At this juncture, it is not anticipated that the appeal will prohibit St. Martin Parish from litigating its claims in State Court.
ROAD STRIPING UPDATE
As I previously reported, the Parish developed a plan for the striping of several Parish roads acting alone with respect to selected roads, and acting in concert with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (“DOTD) in connection with parish roads selected under the Local Road Safety Program administered through the Louisiana Technical Assistance Program (“LTAP”).
The following parish roads were selected by the Parish for striping without assistance for LTAP:
St. John Field Road
Papit Guidry Road
Grand Bois Road
Harold Stoutes Road
Eddie Ray Road
Oleste Tauzin Road
The striping of those roads have been completed, and within the next week reflectors and stop markings at intersections will be painted.
Additionally, these Parish roads have been striped in connection with the LTAP endeavor:
Bayou Fuselier Road from La. 93 (Bayou Courtableau) to McVeigh Road
Bayou Portage from La. 3083 (Bayou Alexander) to Terminus
Capritto Road from La. 96 (Terrace) to Cypress Island
Chess Broussard Road from the Lafayette Parish line to Sawmill
Johnson Road from Jim Sells to La. 678 (Grand Anse)
Leed Champagne Road from Paul Joseph to Russo Milazzo
Melvin Dupuis Road from La. 328 (Anse Broussard) to La. 347 (Grand Point)
Poche Bridge Road from La. 31 (Main Hwy.) to La. 328 (Anse Broussard)
Salt Mine Hwy from La. 94 (Mills Hwy.) to Saw Mill
Section 28 Road from La. 96 (Catahoula Hwy.) to La. 3039 (Nursery)
Stephensville Road from La. 70 to Pontoon Bridge Road
True Friend Road from La. 31 to La. 31
Will Angelle Road from La. 347 (Bushville Hwy.) to La. 686 (Coteau Rodaire)”
Zin Zin Road
Herman Dupuis Road
Lady of the Lake Road
The marking project for the “LTAP” roads will be complete once reflectors are placed which should be within the next ten working days. Moreover, it is salient to note that three roads were not striped: Bordelon Road, Duchamp Road, and Breaux Bridge Senior High School Road. These roads will be overlaid in 2024, and thus the striping thereof would not have been financially feasible. The striping was accomplished using national highway standards as guidance, especially, though not exclusively, those roads which fell within the parameters of the LTAP program.
While on the subject of road improvements, an update on the 2023 Road Improvement Project is in order. I was hopeful that we commence bidding by the middle of November for the roads selected for our 2023 improvement project. I remain hopeful that this will be accomplished although actual construction on any of the “2023” roads may not be commenced until early 2024. Regardless, FY 2024 will be extraordinarily active relative to our road improvements since we have proposed 4.8 million dollars for road projects in the budget which the Council will be adopting in December. This does not include what has been budgeted for Road District #2.
For your easy reference, I offer the following from my report of July, 2023:
“The final listing of roads to be included for improvements this fiscal year has been finalized and submitted to Sellers & Associates for preparation of specifications and bids. The budget for the project has been reduced from the original $4.5 million allocated because of unforeseen bridge closures and consequential repairs. Below is a succinct analysis of the final budget:
- S.T. #1 Road Improvements: $4,500,000.00
- S.T. #1 Bridge Repairs: $350,000.00
Expenditures to date
- Cypress Island Hwy. Ext.: $536,408.24
- 4-Mile Bayou Rd. Bridge: $386,240.00
- Bayou Merecier Bridge: $239,395.00
- Zin Zin Road Bridge: $10,780.00
- Grand Bois Rd. Bridge: $300,362.68
Balance for Roads $3,376,814.08
The particular roads which will be included in the first phase of the improvement project are set forth in the following table:
Doyle Melancon Extension
Camp Bon Temps
Ti Adam Guidry
Breaux Bridge High School Road
*To be added if funds are available.
Doyle Melancon Extension is on the eastern boundary of the City of Breaux Bridge. Thus, under the provisions of La. R.S. 33:224, the City is responsible for one-half of the maintenance of that road. I discussed with Mayor Calais the Parish’s desire to, and the need for, the reconstruction of this road. He was in agreement with the City participating and placed the matter on the July 11th Agenda for the meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. Accompanied by Council Member Chris Tauzin, I appeared at the meeting and explained our road project in general, focusing upon the need to improve Doyle Melancon Extension. The Breaux Bridge City Council voted unanimously to approve participating in the endeavor on a 50/50 cost share. I am most appreciative of the City’s embracing this project and the warm reception which Councilman Tauzin and I received during the presentation.
From the Budget set forth above, there is $3,376,814.08 available for Phase 1 Roads. The cost of the first 5 roads is $3,180,603.80. Hence, there are the following amounts available in view of the participation of the City of Breaux Bridge in the Doyle Melancon Extension:
Difference in Budgeted amount and roads: $196,210.28
One half the cost of Doyle Melancon Ext.: $465,924.00
TOTAL AVAILABLE $662,134.28
Cost of Chess Courville $580,664.00
Cost of Earline $209,459.00
Could add Huval Lane (Rated 11) at cost of $457,969.20
Cost of Earline $209,459.00
Consequently, after conferring with Sellers & Associates, the bidding documents will call bids for improvements to the following roads:
Camp Bon Temps
Ti Adam Gudiry
Breaux Bridge High School Road
Alternate # 1
Doyle Melancon Extension-Note that this road is listed as an alternate in order to get a specific cost therefor which will permit the 50% contribution for Breaux Bridge to be accurately determined.
Ulysses Hebert Road
All bids will have unit costs. Therefore, we will hopefully be in a position to add roads depending on several factors. Indeed, the Direct Appropriations in favor of the Parish in HB 560 will hopefully be a source of adding the roads identified in Alternates 2 and 3.
Once we have a firm grasp on the precise roads that will be in Phase 1, we have be in a position to select the roads for Phase 2 which should include the following which are listed in no specific order:
Section 28 Road
Rousseau Poche Road
Bayou Fuslier Road
Herman Dupuis Road
Any road not improved from Phase 1 list.
The process involved in putting together the foregoing consumed much time and thought. Of course, I will be happy to meet with any of you to discuss this matter and answer any questions.”
Earlier this year, I reported that:
“There are four roundabouts in St. Martin Parish, all of which have been constructed by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (“DOTD”). Two of the roundabouts are on La. Highway 347 at Exit 115 (Henderson I-10 Exit), one is at the intersection of Doyle Melancon Road and Grand Point Highway, and the fourth is on La. Highway 31 at its intersection with Semede Highway. All of the roundabouts are equipped with underground utilities (water and electricity).
In the summer of 2021, acting in conjunction with our Tourism Department, Jennifer Stelly, the Executive Director with SMEDA, developed preliminary plans for the erection of signage and the construction of particular ornamentation on the roundabouts. The estimated costs for the enhancements of all four of the roundabouts were $200,000. The Parihs’s Department of Tourism agreed to finance the projects and therefore we budgeted that amount for the endeavor.
Thereafter, meetings were held with, and approval of the designs secured from, the Mayors of each municipality in which the roundabouts are situated or which are adjacent to them. Those municipalities are Breaux Bridge, Henderson, and St. Martinville. I attended meetings of the City Councils for each municipality and presented the approved designs.
On August 16, 2021, an application for a permit for the development of the roundabouts was submitted to DOTD. After the passage of several months, DOTD advised that there were numerous design steps which had to be addressed before it would issue the requested permit. Suffice it state that the conditions imposed by DOTD were so arduous and technical that it was necessary to retain the services of a landscape architect. Hence, such a firm was recruited, and its principals then began preparing the technical design revisions which required further communications with DOTD. At one point in the process, DOTD required that “sight triangles” be developed. Consequently, it was necessary to engage an engineering firm for this purpose.
In January of this year, the landscape architectural firm met with me, Laci Laperouse (Director of Tourism), and Jennifer Stelly. At that time, we were advised that the estimated cost to develop the planned enhancement of the roundabouts was over $260,000.00 EACH. Reasonable attempts to reduce the scale and scope of the projects were projected to save only $50,000 for each roundabout. Of course, I could not justify expending $800,000 to a million dollars for the embellishment of the roundabouts as planned.
Therefore, on February 15, 2023, I met with the mayors in the affected municipalities and advised them accordingly. It was agreed that we would revisit this matter in several months to evaluate whether the construction industry costs have decreased to the point where the endeavor would be financially reasonable. Candidly, I do not anticipate that the expense will change significantly so as to justify proceeding as planned. Indeed, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, a roundabout in a neighboring parish, similar in scope, cost $180,000 to develop. At this juncture, I am inclined to recommend the planting of vegetative materials that will embellish the roundabout and require minimum maintenance.”
Since those remarks last March, the designs of the roundabouts have been revised significantly, and the specific costs of the reduced project scope received. The costs of the enhancements to the roundabouts now total $217,975.00, broken down as follows:
Henderson Roundabout (South) $54,307.00
Henderson Roundabout (North) $54,307.00
Breaux Bridge Roundabout $55,459.00
St. Martinville Roundabout $53,902.00
The foregoing costs include a one-year maintenance agreement relative to the vegetation which will adorn each roundabout.
Therefore, the necessary funds from Tourism/Economic Development budgets have been allocated for this project. Construction should commence prior to the end of the current year.
FIRE SERVICE DISTRICT-ITEM 3 OF ADMINISTRATIVE/FINANCE COMMITTEE AGENDA
Item 3 of the Administrative/Finance Committee Agenda is an ordinance which seeks to revise pertinent provisions of the Code of Ordinances relative to the Fire Service District. The proposed revisions are the product of a request by the current Steering Committee of the District which is composed of the chiefs of all the individual departments which comprise the Fire Service District. I have conferred with the full Steering Committee on two separate occasions and with representatives thereof, as well as the Coordinator and Steering Committee Chair on multiple occasions. The amendments actually put into effect the current practices of the Fire Service District, especially as regards the day to day affairs of the District.
One of the major concerns initially expressed was the mistaken belief that authority was being removed from the Steering Committee. In actuality, a comparison of the proposed provisions with the current ordinances which regulate the Fire District will reflect that the proposed amendments grant more authority to the Steering Committee than what currently exists. Also, the proposition in question reflects a final draft which was subject of several edits emanating from my meetings with both the Steering Committee, its chair, and the District Coordinator.
For the record, the Steering Committee on October 23, 2023, approved of the proposed Ordinance Summary Number 1418-OR, with only one dissenting vote. At my request, a formal Resolution was adopted by the Committee requesting the enactment of the suggested changes.
WATER CONSOLIDATION-ITEMS 3 & 4 OF THE PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE AGENDA
Items 3 and 4 of the Administrative Committee Agenda are discussions of two ordinances associated with the current ongoing consolidation of the water systems of the Industrial Plant, City of St. Martinville, and Waterworks District No. 4. Item 3 establishes the specifics of the governance of the Consolidated District which is in strict accord with my prior presentations. The second Ordinance (Item 4) authorizes, as required by the Parish’s Home Rule Charter, the transfer of assets from the various components of the consolidation to the Consolidated District. Mr. Jason Akers of Foley & Judell and I have meticulously reviewed these edicts, and we are in accord with the provisions thereof. Moreover, the governance instruments must be submitted to and approved by the Water Sector Commission by on or before the end of February of 2024.
ATCHAFALAYA WELCOME CENTER BOAT LAUNCH/PROPOSED FLOATING DOCKS
Last July, I advised that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) received funding for the construction of two mooring docks at the Atchafalaya Welcome Center situated at Exit 121 of Interstate 10 (Butte LaRose Exit). The plans called for a dock to be situated adjacent to both the north and south sides of the boat landing which is operated by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD). In connection therewith, I received correspondence from LDWF requesting that the Parish enter into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with both DOTD and LDWF which would transfer ownership and maintenance obligations of the mooring docks to the Parish. At my request, a proposed agreement was submitted to my office for review and comment. Having no prior knowledge of this matter, I made arrangements to orally discuss this proposition with LDWF on March 29, 2023. Thereafter, I memorialized to LDWF the tenor of my discourse as follows:
“This electronic transmittal will confirm our discourse on March 29, 2023, regarding the subject CEA. It is my understanding that Melissa Longman of your office had a discussion several months ago with Kasey Courville, the former Director of Public Works for the St. Martin Parish, at which time he advised the Parish would assume the maintenance of the proposed mooring docks at the Atchafalaya Basin Welcome Center. Mr. Courville left his employment with the Parish on December 5, 2022.
As I informed you, I had no knowledge of this matter until receipt of the proposed CEA. Moreover, Mr. Courville had no authority to obligate the Parish for any maintenance. Please note that this observation DOES NOT challenge in any way that such a (mis)representation was made by Courville. Similarly, at this juncture the Parish is NOT stating that it is not amenable to the assumption of some sort of maintenance accord.
However, there are several areas of concern and questions I have about the parameters of what may be expected from the Parish. These include.
- Whether the Parish has ever assumed the maintenance of any of the grounds embraced by the Welcome Center inclusive of the current boat launch which I understand is maintained by DOTD. We have no records to indicate that the Parish has ever maintained any part of the facility including the current launch.
- The property is question is owned and operated by DOTD; thus, under what bases is DOTD unwilling to assuming the maintenance of the proposed mooring docks.
- What are the features of the mooring docks; i.e., length, width, depth, type of materials of which the mooring docks will be constructed.
- Whether the “maintenance” would include repairs necessitated by normal wear and tear, accident, vandalism, weather event, or other sort of fortuitous incident.
- A requirement that the Parish maintain liability and/or property insurance and if so, in what amount(s).
Clarification of these points will assist in the Parish’s consideration of the proposed CEA.”
On April 10, 2023, LDWF responded, informing me that several of my questions/concerns had been forwarded to DOTD for response. Additionally, points/questions four and five set forth above were answered to the effect that while there was no requirement that the Parish secure insurance, it would nonetheless be responsible for the maintenance of the docks.
In June, I received a telephone call from Patrick Banks, the Assistant Director of LDWF asking whether my concerns expressed above had been adequately addressed. I informed him that they had not been. In fact, I lamented over the fact that the Parish was being asked to assume the responsibility and liability for a structure which it did not solicit, design, or evaluate as to its necessity. Perplexing then, and now, is that DOTD is responsible for the Welcome Center and boat launch; thus, I again questioned the basis of the reluctance of DOTD to assume responsibility for the mooring docks, and implicitly therewith, the bases for those state entities’ insistence on liability being transferred to the Parish.
Subsequently, on July 12, 2023, at the request of LDWF, I met with Banks and several other representatives at the Welcome Center to further discuss this matter. At this meeting, I advised that a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement was not out of the question provided: DOTD and/or LDWF agree to hold St. Martin Parish Government harmless from, and indemnify the Parish for, any damages to property or persons arising from the use of the mooring docks; agree that the Parish had no role in the design or construction of the docks; and, no maintenance be required of the Parish if no funds were appropriated therefor by the state or any entity. The participants from LDWF were open to these conditions and committed to securing a revised CEA with these specific provisions.
On October 30, 2023, Ms. Melissa Longman e-mailed me advising that LDWF was no longer interested in pursuing the construction of the docks because the “property is not owned by LDWF.” However, her transmittal appears to have “left the door open” should the Parish be willing to assume the liability for this project. I responded that I had not changed my posture in that regard. I again observe that it is interesting that a state agency is willing for a local governing authority to assume liability under these circumstances, but unwilling for it to assume the same legal obligations. In any case, the project is apparently being abandoned.
HAZARDOUS WASTE DAY REPORT
The Hazardous Waste Day on October 21, 2023, was a success. The preliminary data reflects that 211 “vehicles” were serviced at the event with the “breakdown” by communities being:
Breaux Bridge/Cecilia 166
St. Martinville/Parks 36
The total vehicles serviced last year were 179. Hence, our increase in volume was approximately 17.87%.
I am deeply appreciative of our staff for their tireless efforts. Jennie Duong and Bonnie Vann were present at the event the entire time, and their pre-planning for it was second to none. Timmy Patin was likewise instrumental in his coordination of the trusty crew that assisted. Of course, Lesley Thibodeaux, my executive secretary helped immensely with the planning including the preparation and dissemination of the flyers promoting the event. Finally, the Library Board, City of Breaux Bridge, and Waste Connections co-sponsored the activity, and their contributions were immense and are greatly appreciated.
IN-SERVICE FOR NEW COUNCIL MEMBERS
As I have done in the past, I will sponsor an in service for new council members relative to the Parish’s Home Rule Charter, the Open Meetings Law, Public Records Law, and the parameters of the obligations, duties, and responsibilities of both parish and municipal governing authorities. I anticipate that the in-service will be 4 hours. The anticipated date will be Friday, December 15, 2023, commencing at 8:00 A.M.
Of course, current members of the Council are invited to attend and offer insight where and when deemed proper. Likewise, members of any other governing body are certainly invited to attend especially since issues of public meetings and public records will be discussed.
LIVE STREAMING OF COUNCIL MEETING-ITEM 9 OF THE AGENDA OF THE ADIMINISTRATIVE/FINANCE COMMITTEE MEETING
BJS Media, a local firm, has offered to live stream the council meetings commencing in January 2023. The broadcast of the meetings will be accessed on the Parish’s web site as opposed to any other media such as face book. As such, viewers will be unable to make comments as the meeting progresses. The cost would be $150 per hour, with a one hour minimum. After one hour, the charge will be $25 every fifteen minutes.
The discussion of this item by the Council will likely afford some guidance relative to whether such an arrangement will be sufficient to satisfy 2023 legislation regarding affording the public access to public meetings. As such, I repeat my comments from my September report:
“By virtue of Act Number 393 of the 2023 Regular Legislative Session, the open meeting law of the state was revised to require any public body “with the capability” to allow a member of the public with a disability recognized by the ADA or a designated caretaker of the disabled individual to participate in its meetings via teleconference or video conference provided that the disabled individual prior to the meeting requests that accommodation. If the public body does not have such capability, then that entity must adopt “rules, regulations, and procedures” to facilitate viable alternative methods for participation.
Similarly, any member of a public body whose presence is required in order to cast any vote, or whose presence is considered in determining the existence of a quorum and who cannot personally attend such a meeting because of a disability recognized by the ADA must be afforded the opportunity to participate in the meeting via electronic means. The public body must have written policies in effect to govern such accommodations.
Executive sessions are exempted from both scenarios.
The definitions of teleconference, video conference, and electronic means is specifically defined by La. R.S. 42:17.2. Otherwise, the legislation is silent as to the meaning of terms such as “with the capability,” “viable alternative methods”, or how long prior to a meeting must such notice be given to the public body, and how that notice is to be imparted.”
The October tax collection reports for the Parish reflect a positive change from the slight, non-concerning declines seen in August and September. Indeed, the October collections were the highest for any month this year. Thus, in accord with my past monthly reports, I have prepared and hereby submit the following summary of the most recent monthly tax collections:
- Net Collections for Sales Tax District #1:
October 2023 Net Collections $381,952.73
October 2022 Net Collections $362,009.02
October 2021 Net Collections $341,557.18
October 2020 Net Collections $282,560.11
Average 2022 Monthly Collections $344,955.41
Average 2021 Monthly Collections $309,495.52
Average 2020 Monthly Collections $251,006.17
- Average January-October Net Collections
Sales Tax District #1
January-October 2023 Average $358,889.00
January-October 2022 Average $347,298.07
January-October 2021 Average $310,399.78
January-October 2020 Average $249,924.50
- Collections for Sales Tax District #2:
October 2023 Net Collections $200,850.91
October 2022 Net Collections $184,324.80
October 2021 Net Collections $144,426.58
October 2020 Net Collections $92,915.28
Average 2022 Monthly Collections $140,560.01
Average 2021 Monthly Collections $112,363.68
Average 2020 Monthly Collections $95,507.00
- Average January-October Net Collections
Sales Tax District #2
January-October 2023 Average $160,203.45
January-October 2022 Average $144,936.48
January-October 2021 Average $115,569.97
January-October 2020 Average $95,247.82
Sales Tax District No. 1:
As alluded to previously, the October monthly net collections for this year are substantially greater than the October net collections for the last several years. Moreover, the average amount collected for the first ten months of this year exceeds the average collections for the past several years. Similarly, the average net collections for January-October of this year ($358,889.00) exceed the average collections for the same time period over the last ten (10) years. The monthly amount collected this year ranges from a low of $316,505.97 to a high of $381,952.73 received in October. As I postulated last month in my report, the drop in monthly collections in August and October is of no moment. More importantly, the overall trend is not only upward, but, more importantly, appears to be on par with current inflationary rates.
Sales Tax District No. 2:
The October net collections for 2023 are greater than any October net collections over the last decade. The average monthly net collections for the first ten months of this year are in excess of the average collected for the same 10-month period over the last several years. Likewise, the average collections thus far in 2023 remain greater than the average collections for the entire 12 months of the years 2020 through 2022.
In Sales Tax District #1, the average monthly collections for the first ten months this year are $11,590.91 greater than the amount collected in the same time period in 2022. This computes to a 3.33% increase. In Sales Tax District #2, the average collections for January-October 2023 are $15,269.97 more than the amount collected for those months in 2022. This is reflective of a 10.53% increase. The most encouraging aspect is that the collections increases are above the inflationary rates for the last year as reported by most publications which I have reviewed, a fact which I have stated previously, and a fact which bears repeating.
Also worthy of repeating is that with inflation, sales tax collections are expected to rise; therefore, to accurately gauge the net impact of increased collections, one must compare increases in tax collections to the current inflationary rates. Increases at or below the inflationary rate should be troublesome. Consequently, the increases in Sales Tax District No. 1 of 3.33% compared to an inflationary rate of 3.7% to 5% over last year are right at the inflationary rate. More importantly, the increase of 10.53% in collections in Sales Tax District No. 2 is extraordinary when measured against the inflationary rate.
Hotel/Motel Tax Collections:
The hotel/motel tax collections for October 2023 were $39,052.41 compared to October 2022 collections of $23,688.05 and 2021 October collections of $40,801.68. The average monthly collections for the entire 12 months of 2022 were $25,297.62 and $26,404.71 in 2021. The 2023 average monthly collection up to November first is $37,505.33. This computes to a 48.25% increase above the average of total collections for the entire year of 2022. As a matter of fact, the total collections thus far this year ($375,053.36) exceed the total collections in all of 2022 ($303,571.49) and 2021 ($316,856.61).
I would be remiss if I did not note that the October 2023 collections are less than the collections in July and August of this year. However, what is of import is an evaluation of collections on a year-to-year basis, which paints a more accurate picture. With this in mind, noteworthy is that, as with the sales tax collections, the total increases for the year are indicative of positive activity, especially when the rate of inflation is considered.
Based upon the foregoing, I am AGAIN constrained to repeat these remarks from my last reports regarding vigorous efforts which have been made to collect these taxes:
“Noteworthy is that there have been more aggressive efforts to insure that the Air BNB’s in the Parish are collecting the required hotel/motel taxes, as required. Recently, it was discovered that many Air BNB were, inexplicably neglecting to collect and/or remit the required assessments. Hence, I credit those efforts.
Last month, I observed that sales tax collections can be expected to greater than in years past because of inflationary factors coupled with remote sales. Nonetheless, an examination of the increase in our hotel/motel collections requires one to surmise that there are obviously increased economic activities in our Parish.”
Video Poker/Off Track Betting:
Video Poker collections for October were $182,072.14 which is consistent with our expectations. Such revenue is difficult to gauge since receipts are sporadic from June to October because of the state’s fiscal year. Consequently, a month-to-month comparison is misleading.
To date, the Parish has received $1,850,392.10 in video poker revenue. This computes to a monthly average of $185,039.21. In 2022, the Parish’s collections totaled $2,181,723.16 for the entire year, which computes to a monthly average of $181,810.26. In 2021, the total collections for that year were $2,063,827.88 for a monthly average of $171,985.65.
If the video poker collections remain on the current track, then we can expect significant increases for the final two months of the year. The collections up to this point certainly buttresses the proposition that there is more economic activity in our Parish.
As of the date of my report from last month, the Parish had no Off-Track Betting Revenues which is not unusual. However, shortly after my report, we received $7,223.00. In October, we collected $6,859.00. During the first ten months of 2022, our receipts totaled $94,250.00. Receipts for the first 10 months of this year are $120,033. In August of this year, however, we received a significant sum of $57,785. This collection was no doubt the product of legislation enacted in the 2023 Regular Session in response to the historical racing devices about which I have lamented in prior reports. Hence, I am hopeful, and expect, the collections to continue to reflect significant increases over the last few years.
I conclude this portion of my report with my normal admonition that despite the overall positive picture relative to our collections, the economic landscape of our state and nation still remains extremely uncertain. Sean Hundley, Director of Finance, and I will continue to closely scrutinize our revenue sources and keep you abreast of all developments. Similarly, our expenditures shall remain a focal point as we administer the Parish’s finances.