In Councilman Francis Touchet’s absence, Lonnie Broussard presented the 2009 budget to the council, which is based upon the estimated sales tax to be collected in the Parish.
Broussard explained that following any hurricane, sales tax collection funds increase. As a result, he said he estimates a 1.9 percent increase in sales tax collections for 2009, bringing the total estimated sales tax funds to reach $3.4 million.
Mayor Mark Piazza noted that this is just an estimate and the council will not know the actual budget until all the sales tax funds are collected. The council said the $3.4 million is a conservative budget, and therefore are hoping that the actual amount collected will exceed $3.4 million.
“We’re going to be cautiously optimistic that that is the number,” Broussard said. “The last two or three years, we’ve had several factors that, I believe, have helped contribute to larger than normal sales tax collections.” Broussard cited the examples of hurricanes, which “cause a lot of spending,” and the oil and gas industry, which has brought a lot of business to the area.
“Given the large volume of oil and gas work, unemployment in our area has been low, so people employed that have money are spending money,” he explained. “In the last two or three months, we’ve seen the price of a barrel of oil go from the $150 peak down to (what it is) now at $60,” Broussard said.
“We’ve seen the downturn of the national economy,” Broussard said. “We probably haven’t felt it here yet, but, at some point, my concern (is) we may begin to feel some of that effect if oil and gas activity starts to diminish given the low price of gas and oil.”
In addition to discussing the current 2009 budget, as well as the state of several ongoing public works projects, Mayor Piazza and the council proclaimed November 22 as “Turn on the Lights Day,” and encouraged citizens to donate $1 to the utility companies, who will then distribute the moneys collected to help the less fortunate pay for their utility bills, thus “turning on the lights” in time for the holidays.