Highlights from the Parish President’s Report of the St. Martin Parish Council Committee Meetings of July 19, 2022

The dredging of Catahoula Lake is proceeding on schedule and without any major obstacles. On Friday, July 8, 2022, I met with Nick Sonnier of Sellers & Associates and Justin Chorlog, a representative of Coastal Dredging Company, respectively our engineer and contractor for this important project. Also present were our Director of Public Works and project manager. The topic of our discourse was the potential of extending the offset of the area of dredging to less than 35 feet from the bank and to increase the scope of the project so as to include the dredging an area near the northern end of the Lake (“oxbow area”) which was NOT part of the original project. The first proposal was not recommended by either our engineer or the contractor because of numerous issues presented by dredging any closure to the bank than previously planned. However, the second proposition was worthy of vetting. Nonetheless, a determination of the additional cost to increase the scope of the area was necessary before any sort of recommendation could be submitted to the Council. Because the project would be near completion by the time of the Council’s next regular meeting, I authorized a formal survey of that proposal to determine the exact amount of the additional cost of the dredging of the oxbow area. Hence, the confirmation of change order 2 (Item 6 of the Public Works Agenda) is requested.

Late Thursday, I received from Mr. Sonnier the cost of the dredging of the oxbow area. The cost to dredge this additional area to the depth equal to the level of the rest of the lake would be $108,853.99. The advantage would be that access would be enhanced relative to the property in the affected area and the drainage benefits to the entire parish would similarly be enhanced. Of course, the recreational and safety benefits are self-evident. The disadvantage is the additional costs. At your August regular meeting, I will ask that you consider a third change order increasing the dredging since it will probably be several years before we have this dredging opportunity again. Moreover, the bid received for this project was $59,248.16 less than our construction budget at the time of bidding. I also note that none of our other planned projects will be affected. Again, August is the latest date for the Council to approve a change order for increasing the scope of the dredging.

This item seeks to repeal Ordinance Number 08-10-0815-OR which was adopted by the Parish Council in 2008. I recall that the edict was the result of issues with alligators at Lake Martin. Specifically, many residents of that area were complaining about the alligators having become accustomed to being fed and thus approaching individuals seeking food. Moreover, I tend to further recall that there were instances where the reptiles had rummaged through trash containers. There were no objections to the current ordinance as best as I can recall.

Recently, several regulatory agencies have approached the owners of many of our local boat tour companies in the Parish advising that the Parish Ordinance would be enforced. The operators of these tours frequently entice alligators during a tour by providing food. Additionally, the operators believe that if the current ordinance is enforced, it could have a negative impact on their operations. I also note that the current ordinance as drafted prevents the commercial harvesting of alligators.

I was interviewed by a local broadcast media outlet on this agenda item and explained that the Council will go through a deliberative process and evaluate whether the 2008 ordinance should remain, be repealed, or revised to provide for what the Council may deem proper exceptions to an outright ban.

On July 5, 2022, the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, dismissed the litigation against St. Martin Parish Government. Suit had been filed by Lafayette Parish Consolidated Government against the Parish and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeking what is referred to as a declaratory judgment that no regulations were violated in the removal of the spoil banks. The attorneys for the Parish filed preliminary motions seeking a dismissal of the Parish from the litigation, and the motions were granted without a hearing on July 5, 2022. Indeed, the Court filed its judgment at 5:00 P.M. on that date while we were conducting our regular monthly Council meeting.

Our attorneys and I discussed the Court action on the following morning and agreed that we needed to proceed without delay with litigation is state court seeking the replacement of the spoil banks by LCG. Thus, suit was filed on July 6, 2022, in St. Martin Parish against Lafayette Consolidated Government.

Interestingly, LCG through its Mayor-President has publicly stated on a radio broadcast on July 7, 2022, that he agrees with the Court decision and there would be no appeal. It is apparent that the attorneys for LCG have a view somewhat at odds with the Mayor-President since on July 12, 2022, the attorneys requested that the Court reconsider its judgement dismissing the litigation against the St. Martin Parish or alternatively to certify the case for an appeal.

In any case, it would be prudent to discuss several aspects of the litigation in executive session, particularly as regards the Parish’s litigation strategy at this point in time. A public discourse on several aspects could have a detrimental effect on how we proceed. Nonetheless, I will discuss outside of the executive session those aspects of the case about which public disclosure will not injure our litigation posture.

On one final note, on July 13, 2022, the United States Army Corps of Engineers also filed a motion to dismiss the federal litigation which remains pending against it. In its supporting memorandum, the Corps meticulously reviews the pertinent federal regulatory mandates which were ignored by LCG in executing the spoil bank removal. It will be interesting to gauge LCG’s response to the Corps’ motion.

Under this agenda item, Chris Disher will discuss with you the progress that has been made relative to the installation of fiber pursuant to the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement which we executed with Cajun Broadband on March 22, 2022. As background information and a prelude to Mr. Disher’s presentation, I submit these remarks from my prior reports on this item:

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, there have been significant developments, all positive, in the recent weeks. First, I have crystallized negotiations with several companies for broadband services. Final decisions/agreements are dependent upon awards for funding through the Louisiana Office of Broadband Development & Connectivity. Several millions of dollars are available for broadband expansion in unserved and underserved rural areas through what is known as the GUMBO program created by state legislation adopted last Summer. Applications were due December 31, 2021. The projects embraced by my plan and “in-principle” agreements were part of the applications submitted by the providers with whom I have dealt. Indeed, our commitments are significant factors included in the grading process for the GUMBO awards.

The three providers submitting applications are Cajun Broadband for services which embrace the Cade Community to St. Martinville, Allen Communications for services in lower St. Martin and upper St. Martin from Division Road in Arnaudville extending down La. 31 to near Declouet Highway and down La. 686 to near Cecilia High School Road, and LUSFiber for coverages down La. Highway 94 and the Cecilia Community. These three endeavors will provide services to over 7,000 residences, and in excess of 500 commercial facilities. They entail approximately 150 miles of fiber. I will be happy to meet with any of you at any time to examine the particular areas embraced by the applications. Please note that this is simply the first step. Once the GUMBO awards are announced, I will prepare a detailed report for each of you.

The second development which has occurred recently is that Treasury rendered a final rule on January 6, 2022, which allows local parishes to utilize the ARPA funds for general revenue purposes up the ten million dollars. While this will not affect the current plans, it will allow the money to be used without moving funds around as we were forced to do in order to comply with the prior ‘interim final rules.’

Finally, it must be noted that TO DATE we have received only the first portion of ARPA funds. The allotment to which St. Martin Parish is entitled under ARPA is 10.3 million dollars, payable in two equal tranches. The second allotment will be released in March 2022. At that time, I will feel more comfortable with the implementation of our plans since I do not want to finalize anything until the ‘money is in the bank.’

Cajun Broadband has elected to proceed with the installation of fiber in a significant portion of the southwestern portion of the Parish irrespective of its GUMBO application. The company proposes to install 73,000 feet of fiber to the home that will embrace over 700 households and 75 businesses.

Using budgeted ARPA proceeds, the Parish will contribute $1.5 million dollars toward the infrastructure costs. Moreover, the minimum speeds of the services to be provided will be 100 mbps/100 mbps, scalable to 1000/1000. The rate structure will be identical to its current rates which are market compatible.

Additional requirements must be met by CAJUN. First, this project is merely Phase 1 of Cajun’s overall broadband plan for the Parish. The company will continue to pursue its current GUMBO application for Phase 2 which will consist of the installation of an additional 74,000 feet of fiber to service over 700 households and in our Parish. If the GUMBO application is not successful, Cajun will apply for Round 2 funding via GUMBO at which time another $100 million will be available in grant money. The Parish has agreed to provide an additional $300,000 match for this project phase which will cost in excess of $2 million dollars. All of St. Martin Parish facilities in both project areas will be provided free services as well as all schools. Moreover, Cajun’s rate structure must be at least the average of all providers offering compatible services in the Parish.
…, I am scheduled to confer with representatives of Cajun and the law firm which I have retained to assist/advise the Parish relative to this matter. Our specific focus will be completing the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement …
To my knowledge, this will be first CEA relative to Broadband services embraced by either ARPA or GUMBO funding in this region, if not the entire state. Finally, I note that the APC has reviewed my overall plans and has opined that our approach is cogent. Finally, our monetary commitment is in the FY 2022 budget which has been adopted.”

As noted earlier, the CEA was signed on March 22, 2002, and as Mr. Disher will report, the installation of the fiber is proceeding at a fast pace with households being expected to be subject to broadband services by the end of September.

Upon the recommendation of our insurer, I have prepared a comprehensive safety policy which is being implemented for all Parish departments. On March 10, 2022, Mr. Ed Dicks with CCMSI met with me and various directors and supervisors to discuss aspects of our operations designed to prevent injuries. As a consequence of that conference, Mr. Dicks provided to me suggested parameters of a safety policy. Therefore, I reviewed them and make changes where necessary. Should you wish, a replica will be provided to any of you who wishes to receive the policy. You will note that the policy is in my view a compilation of common-sense factors which are, unfortunately all too often overlooked. Hopefully, this proposed policy will have a positive impact in preventing injuries and keeping our insurance rates at an acceptable, affordable amount.

At your regular meeting of July 5, 2022, I advised you that Sean Hundley and I had participated in a teleconference with representatives of S&P Global Ratings relative to the sale of the drainage bonds approved by the electorate in December 2016. The conference was actually an interview by rating analysts from S & P relative to a myriad of matters associated with the affairs of Parish Government, ranging from our budget items to the way we address major storms, both before and after a weather event. The purpose of the discourse was to determine what bond rating should be assigned to the Parish. As customary, prior to the meeting, S&P had reviewed our budget and our most recent audits. S & P sets bond ratings for governmental entities through the Country.

On July 12, 2022, Mr. Hundley and I received notification that S & P confirmed its “AA-Stable” bond rating for St. Martin Parish Government. You will recall that last year, the Parish first received this rating. In view of the current financial climate, we were extremely concerned about whether we would be able to continue the rating. Thus, we were extremely pleased when the rating report was received. Noteworthy, among other statements, are these comments from the report:

“The ‘AA’ rating reflects our view of the parish’s very strong available fund balance in excess of 200% of expenditures, as well as its very strong reserves outside the general fund, partially offsetting, in our view, the parish’s weak economy and debt profile. Through conservative budgeting practices, particularly through the pandemic, the parish has consistently produced very strong operating results across total governmental funds. While we consider the local economy to be weak, the parish’s property tax base has shown consistent moderate growth, which we expect will continue over the next two years. Therefore, we do not expect to change the rating over the two-year outlook period.
The rating also reflects our view of the parish’s:
• Below-average income and market value per capita metrics compared with peers, which we view as the primary limiting credit factor;
• Consistently very strong operating results and maintenance of available reserves above 75% of expenditures, which we view as a positive credit factor;
• Standard financial management policies and practices, and very strong institutional framework; and
• High debt burden with average amortization and no additional debt plans. Pension and other postemployment benefits (OPEB) costs are not an immediate credit pressure due to the well-funded status of the parish’s largest pension plan.”

The foregoing comments mirror the concluding remarks in the S & P’s final report last year when we first received this high bond rating: “The [St. Martin Parish’s] institutional framework score for Louisiana parishes is very strong.

I congratulate the Council on strong leadership and recognize the Parish Government leaders of the past who first set us on a stable financial course. Finally, I am constrained to particularly recognize Sean Hundley for the effective job he does as Director of Finance.

At your regular meeting on July 5, 2022, Brac Salyers reviewed with you the prospective drawdown on Henderson Lake. For reference, I feel it would be prudent to summarize various aspects associated with the drawdown for your ready and easy access.

On June 30, 2022, Mr. Salyers, a Biologist Manager with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (“LDWF”), conferred with me to discuss a drawdown for this year. As a consequence of our meeting, it was determined that the drawdown of Henderson Lake would commence on August 1, 2022, and conclude no later than November 1, 2022.

For background information, it should be noted that on August 15, 2014, the United States Army Corps of Engineers approved an operational plan for the drawdown of Henderson Lake. Sixteen arduous conditions were imposed in the permit/approval. Essentially, the initial permitted plan called for five (5) separate, though not consecutive, years of summer/fall drawdowns, commencing in 2014. The original permit expired on November 30, 2020. However, in 2021, the permit was extended by the Corps in perpetuity. That fact alone demonstrates the value assigned to a drawdown. Moreover, because of weather conditions the drawdowns since 2014 have produced mixed, and often disappointing results:
2014: Successful
2015: Terminated because of high water
2016: Terminated because of the August 16 flood events
2017: Terminated early
2018: Successful although had to be terminated earlier than anticipated
2019: Terminated because of the high-water levels in the lake
2020: Numerous storms produced high-water which impeded the drawdown

2021 Hurricane IDA and related high-water events resulted in an early end.

According to Mr. Salyers and other biologists with the DWLF, the purpose of the drawdown is to control severe problems with vegetation, especially Hydrilla, Water Hyacinth, and Giant Salvinia. These growths rob the water of valuable, essential nutrients which support fisheries. Additionally, the vegetation impedes navigation. Furthermore, a successful drawdown allows for the compaction of the lakebed, thus aiding in the reproduction of fisheries. Finally, the lowering of the lake may aid with flood prevention in the event of a major storm or rain event.

We will maintain the normal parameters which will govern the opening and closing the gates at the Henderson Lake control structure to insure there will be no issue with the drawdown commencing as scheduled and to minimize any undue fish kill. The operational plan calls for the reduction of the water level by 2 to 4 inches per day until we realize a water level of 6 feet. The level at the lake will be monitored numerous times every day by both the LDWF and our office with daily reports being provided to the United States Army Corps of Engineers, all in accordance with the permit dictates.

During the last drawdowns, our Office has kept meticulous records which LDWF, and our public works department will rely upon while the 2022 drawdown lasts. Again, it is expected that the drawdown will terminate no later than November 1, 2022, so as to have minimal impact on access to the lake especially as regards the duck hunting season.

At this time of year, we begin to experience issues with the presence of mosquitos. Thus, as I have done in the past, I will avail myself of the opportunity to alert the public of the parameters of our surveillance program. Much of the following information has been previously imparted; however, it certainly bears repeating.

As a threshold matter, it should be noted that the program runs from April 30th until November 30th of each year. Our current contractor was last selected in 2019 as a consequence of an RFP process. Noteworthy is that our mosquito control program is not one of comprehensive spraying, but rather we determine where, what, when, and how often to spay based on pool tests from 27 pool traps which are strategically situated throughout the Parish. Until 2019, these traps contained sentinel chickens which were tested regularly together with mosquitos. However, commencing in 2019, the testing standards developed by the CDC and approved by the Louisiana Arboviral Sampling Standards Committee provide that no sentinel chickens or dead birds should be tested. Therefore, our contractor must necessarily be especially vigilant in the surveillance of the strategically placed traps. I communicate at least once per week with the contractor to discuss tests results relative to any disease detected from pool samples of mosquitos, “counts” (the number of mosquitos) from each pool, and the assignment of spraying crews.

Hence, we have what is in reality a “mosquito surveillance program.” In our region of the State, there is simply no financially feasible program of which we can avail ourselves to completely control or abate the mosquito population. Such a program would cost well over a million dollars annually and would no doubt entail aerial spraying.

Likewise, St. Martin Parish has no special tax or funding source for our mosquito program. Rather, we fund the services from our health unit fund. It should be noted that the expenses associated with our mosquito program was particularly illuminated the last three years because of the numerous storms which struck the State of Louisiana. As alluded to previously, the only way mosquitos can be controlled to any reasonable degree is by aerial spraying. We were fortunate that over the last two years we have been able to negotiate with the State and FEMA aerial spraying because of the acute increase of mosquitos caused by hurricanes, including Delta, Zeta, Ida, and Laura.

Hence, I encourage you to explain to your constituents, when calls are received, exactly what our program embraces. Mosquito control does not equate to mosquito elimination. That objective is simply not possible from either a financial or pragmatic perspective. As an aside, our program is equally, if not more, effective, that our neighboring parishes.

I also alert you that should this year follows suit, there will complaints about gnats and requests that the Parish spray in the infested areas. As such, I am constrained to again note that, according to our contractor, there is simply no effective, comprehensive manner to control such pests. On an individual basis, however, I have been advised that there are sprays with a vanilla extract base that are reasonably effective. Also, there is a device called “Thermacell” which many opine works well.

Even though our Parish, and State, currently have no reports of a positive human case of West Nile Virus or any related disease associated with mosquitos, the public should nonetheless adopt efforts to PROTECT themselves because mosquito control/abatement does not equate to “mosquito elimination. Also, several (8) of our pool tests have disclosed the presence of the West Nile virus. This means that the virus was found in mosquito test samples. This is not unusual, nor does it signify that there is any likelihood that the virus has been or will be transmitted to anyone. Nonetheless, because of the positive pool sample test, we have initiated enhanced spraying in the areas where the positive samples were taken. AGAIN, THERE HAVE BEEN NO POSITIVE HUMAN TEST reported. For reference, positive pool test samples in our area include 28 from Tangipahoa Parish, 12 in Ouachita, 3 in Orleans, 12 in St. Tammany, 3 in Caddo, 3 in Lafayette, and 3 in Ascension.

After consultation with our contractor, the following guidelines have been developed and are summarized as follows:

“1) Residents are encouraged to wear insect repellent, preferably one containing DEET. Always read repellent labels carefully, especially for usage on younger children. Also, try to wear light colored, long sleeve clothing and socks. Darker colored clothing attracts mosquitoes.
2) Repair or replace broken screens on windows and doors: and, avoid using perfumes or colognes.
3) Residents should remove any standing water around their homes or businesses. Clogged rain gutters and pet water bowls can produce thousands of mosquitoes per week and something as small as a coke can or bottle cap can produce a breeding site for mosquitoes. Remember, please remove any standing/stagnant water.
4) Avoiding mosquitoes at their peak activity times of dusk and dawn is highly recommended, but if one must be outside, please wear repellent.
5) Personal protection and yard sanitation are recommended and encouraged.
6) During the evening hours ULV Truck mounted sprayers will be assigned to spray within the Parish of St. Martin in an effort to reduce/maintain the vector population below critical levels as noted in the CDC Expanded Protocol measures. Spraying will be conducted for three consecutive evenings in the affected areas, weather permitting.
7) The efficacy of the Truck Spraying operations will be determined through the use of Mosquito Traps and Landing Rates that are scheduled for operation and performed immediately following the completion of the adult mosquito control activities. The number of mosquitoes collected will serve to quantify the adult population and provide additional specimens to be submitted for retesting at Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab.”
Furthermore, helpful links with valuable mosquito protection information are provided through the website of the Parish’s contractor at: cajunmosquitocontrol.com.”

Additional links are found on the website of the Louisiana Department of Health at: https://ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/page/1930.

Finally, please note that according to the La. Department of Health, COVID-19 is not transmitted via mosquitos.

In my report last month, I advised you of the prospect of the Bayou Estates Floodwall Project being subject to additional funding, thus putting the matter back on our radar. After reviewing the history of the project (which I will not repeat), I concluded with these remarks:

“Then, suddenly and unexpectantly, in April 2022, the potential for additional funding from OCD for the original plans of Sellers & Associates for the wall construction were vaguely discussed with Alberta Pate, a representative of the Office of Community Development. Therefore, the estimated construction budget which included the flood wall was fixed by Sellers & Associates at $8,050,000.00. None of us were optimistic that any progress would be realized since we needed an additional $1,856,102.00 in funding plus there were sunset periods of December 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, respectively for FEMA HMGP and CDBG-DRU funds. However, on June 3, 2022, I received a telephone call from the Office of Community Development (Ms. Pate) informing me that prior requests from my Office for additional funding had been APPROVED. The source of the additional funding was the Gustav/Ike Revitalization Program which is a separate and distinct grant program from the existing CDBG-DRU funding. The amount of that additional funding was the $1.8 million.

Therefore, on June 9, 2022, I participated in a conference call among our Director of Public Works, Alberta Pate and Syndi Pyro with OCD, Sellers & Associates (Todd Vincent and Nick Sonnier), and Russ Carpenter. We have now initiated the process for submitting the necessary applications for the additional funding which, upon approval, will permit another bidding process which we hope will yield acceptable bids.

One further significant point must be established. As alluded to previously, the additional funding of $1,856,102.70 emanates from a separate program, and therefore requires a new grant application, separate administrative tasks inclusive of requests for payments, record keeping, compliances, monitoring, and close-out. Richard Minvielle, our current grant consultant has undertaken the application process, and his fee will be the standard 2.5% of the award, payable only in the event the grant is actually awarded AND paid. If the project does not transpire, then no fee will be due. Also, because of time constraints, adherence to a federal procurement process is not possible which means the Parish will be responsible for paying the fee without the potential of reimbursement in the event the project is completed.

It is important that we proceed with “guarded optimism”. Several obstacles still remain. These include, but are not limited to two major issues:
Will the current budget of $8,050,000 still be viable in view of today’s market and supply chain issues? and
Will the sunset periods for the project completion be extended?

Both are of serious concern.

Of course, our local match remains fixed at $1,364,950.00. I will most assuredly keep you posted as this matter evolves.”

On July 11, 2022, I received the following e-mail from Mr. Minvielle which is most telling and not very encouraging:

“I followed up with Alberta Pate on what was taking them so long to give us access in their on-line system to prepare and submit a Program Amendment for the current CDBG-DR funding, since they had approved the new Economic Revitalization Program grant application we submitted
She said that there was a hang-up with OCD trying to use the Economic Revitalization Program since that would have been considered a new project, and new projects must meet a Low-to Moderate income (LMI) national objective.

But she said that HUD is going to allow OCD to re-allocate unused PARA funds to Parish’s that need funds to complete viable existing projects, such as yours.

The PARA funds will still require us to prepare and submit that Project Amendment for the existing CDBG-DR funding, thus the funds can be used to complete an urgent need project.

She said that the OCD has to prepare an Action Plan Amendment for the PARA funds to be transferred and that she will let us know as soon as it is approved so that I can prepare that Project Amendment.

In summary we are waiting on them.

Call if any questions.”

Mr. Minvielle’s transmittal merit no commentary from me other than to assure all of you that we will continue to strive to make this project a reality. Nonetheless, my expectations now remain at a level less than the “guarded optimism” about which I spoke last month.

I have received and reviewed the latest monthly tax reports which continue to reflect positive numbers and upward trends. The collections are summarized as follows:
A. Net Collections for Sales Tax District #1:
January-June 2022 Net Collections: $1,969,002.61
January-June 2021 Net Collections: $1,758,594.03
January-June 2020 Net Collections: $1,395,270.35
Average 2022 Monthly Net Collections: $328,167.10
Average 2021 6-Month Net Collections: $293,099.01
Average 2020 6-Month Net Collections: $232,545.00

B. Collections for Sales Tax District #2:
January-June 2022 Net Collections: $788,919.46
January-June 2021 Net Collections: $602,787.38
January-June 2020 Net Collections: $559,751.23
Average 2022 Monthly Net Collections: $131,486.57
Average 2021 6-Month Net Collections: $100,464.56
Average 2020 6-Month Net Collections: $93,291.87

The foregoing reflects that the net amounts collected in January-June 2022 in both districts exceed the average monthly net collections in both 2021 and 2020 for the six-month time period of January-June. As regards Sales Tax District No. 1, the January-June 2022 AVERAGE monthly collections are $35,068.09 GREATER than the monthly average collected in January-June 2021. In Sales Tax District #2, the January-June 2022 average monthly collections were $31,022.01 GREATER than the average of the collections for January-June 2021.

Moreover, I have examined and compared the average of the first six months of collections for 2022 with the average monthly collections for the entire 12 months in 2021 and 2020. This comparative analysis reflects for Sales Tax District #1:
2022 Average 6-month Collections: $328,167.10
2021 Average 12-month Collections: $309,495.52
2020 Average 12-month Collections: $252,006.17

As regards, Sales Tax District #2, the comparison is:
2022 Average 6-month Collections: $131,486.57
2021 Average 12-month Collections: $112,363.68
2020 Average 12-month Collections: $95,507.00

Finally, I note that the second half of the year generally reflects greater collections than the first half although the amounts do not appear to be significant.

Therefore, thus far, our collections in Sales Tax District #1 are 11.96% greater than in 2021. In Sales Tax District #2, the first six months of collections are 30.87% greater than in 2021. These increases, of course, must, for planning purposes, be offset against the increased costs of supplies and fuel.

I stated in last month’s report that there are likely several factors at play relative to the increased sales tax collections including the rising prices associated with the current economic climate and the increasing of internet transactions. Of course, the uncertainty surrounding our local, state, and national economy renders it difficult to plan for future projects. I state this because we are on the eve of commencing our budget preparations for FY 2023.

The hotel/motel tax collections for January-June 2022 were $141,119.79 compared to 2021 collections of $104,756.72 during those six months. The January-June collections were $36,363.07 greater that the first six months in 2021. Noteworthy is that the average monthly collections for all of 2021 were $26,404.7 while the average collection thus far this year is $23,519.96. I remain hopeful that our hotel/motel collections will continue to remain strong although I am still extremely concerned about the effect of rising fuel costs. As customary, I note again that this tax is “seasonal” in nature, and hence a comparison of collections during specific “seasons” are a more valuable tool in planning and managing our affairs associated with this tax.

While speaking on the hotel/motel tax collections, I have engaged in candid discourse with our Director of Tourism and the SMEDA Executive Director. They are legitimately concerned that there are several “short term” rental facilities which are not collecting and/or remitting any hotel/motel taxes. Ms. Laperouse first mentioned this issue to me late last year and our efforts to secure answers produced no fruition. Hence, we have again conferred and will be meeting with the proper tax collecting agent for the Parish to pursue this issue.

Video Poker revenue for January-June 2022 was $1,224,350.42. Last year, our collections in that time frame were $1,295,703.48. I again note that our 2021 total collections were 35.62% greater than 2020, and it appears that this upward trend will continue. Also, since Senate Bill 16 has passed, we can anticipate additional revenue in July especially since the state’s data reflects that the actual collections have exceeded the prior state projections. I remind you that pursuant to the dictates of Senate Bill 16, our payments for video poker collections will now be based upon ACTUAL receipts and not estimated receipts.