[StBernard] St. Bernard Parish councilmen and staff to discuss audit and potential new fees

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Aug 7 08:45:13 EDT 2012

St. Bernard Parish councilmen and staff to discuss audit and potential new

Published: Monday, August 06, 2012, 8:30 AM

By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, The Times-Picayune

The St. Bernard Parish Council Executive Finance Committee meets at 4 p.m.
this afternoon in council chambers to discuss the recent parish audit that
gave the parish a D grade. The committee also will discuss options from the
administration regarding water, sewage, fire fees to help generate money for
an allying parish.

Parish President Dave Peralta previously has said that parish must "consider
new ways of generating revenue" and mentioned possibly increasing user fees
for water, sewer, sanitation or fire services.

The audit of the parish's financial practices in 2011 noted government
credit card transactions previously highlighted by The Times-Picayune "that
appeared to be of a personal nature that were not timely reimbursed by the
Parish President," along with several other issues including poor parish
oversight of federal disaster recovery projects, sloppily recorded parish
assets and an aggressive spending of cash accounts.

Overall, the 117-page audit states it "identified certain deficiencies in
internal control over financial reporting that we consider to be material
weakness and other deficiencies that we consider to be significant

In terms of current financial shortfalls, the previous St. Bernard Parish
administration had predicted $21 million from 2012 sale tax revenue. But
after realizing how sharply sales tax revenue has dipped in recent months,
the current parish now is expecting the number to be $5 million or $6
million less.

In turn, Peralta administration has reduced personnel costs. In the
administration's first five months, 94 employees resigned, retired or were
fired, and there were 37 new hires.

The parish job cuts this year saved about $1.6 million. An additional
$817,519 was saved from non-personnel cuts, bringing overall savings to
about $3.6 million.

"The plain truth is that new and/or enhanced revenue sources must be
identified not simply for the purpose of avoiding further layoffs and making
it through the year, but for the long-term viability of St. Bernard Parish,"
Peralta wrote in a report in May that summarized the cuts.

Peralta has said the parish has several options, from "updating water and
sewer rates, which had not been done in over a decade," to instituting fees
for road lighting, fire services or waste disposal.

Chief Administrative Officer Jerry Graves has said water and sewer fee
increases may be necessary since many newly constructed facilities have led
to greater expense.

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