[StBernard] St. Bernard Parish will not collect November and December $32 fee

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Wed Nov 7 08:40:47 EST 2012

St. Bernard Parish will not collect November and December $32 fee
By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on November 06, 2012 at 9:20 PM, updated November 06, 2012 at 9:21 PM Email

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An hour after presidential and local voting wrapped up, the St. Bernard
Parish Council voted on Tuesday to no longer collect the last two months of
a controversial $32 fee for fire services. Initially the resolution was give
to give back September and October collections of the $32 fee, but instead
Councilman Ray Lauga suggested simply not collecting the final two months.

Also on Tuesday evening, the council introduced amendments to the 2012
budget, a matter the council is expected to discuss in further detail at its
Nov. 20 meeting. The administration submitted an amended budget that shows
about $1.3 million in savings. It includes no additional layoffs but would
include deferring some overall parish maintenance issues and shuffling
around some grant money that would postpone some parish projects.

The decision to only collect two months of the $32 fire fee comes amid
higher-than-anticipated sales tax and ad valorem tax collections and about
$600,000 from a statewide settlement in a 1994 lawsuit. The four months of
the fire fee, allegedly imposed so no firefighter layoffs would be needed,
was expected to generate about $2 million, so about $500,000 a month.

The vote came at the tail end of the meeting, after the council went behind
closed doors to discuss a recent lawsuit alleging the $32 fee is

Based on discussions at a budget hearing this past weekend, the
administration now is expecting to receive about $15.6 million in sales tax
rather than the previous $15.1 million estimate.

"My estimate is actually around $16.5 million," Council Chairman Guy McInnis
told his fellow council members.

Also the administration expects to garner about $200,000 more from ad
valorem taxes, McInnis said. Also, there's about $600,000 from a recent
legal settlement.

"My estimate is actually around $16.5 million." -- Council Chairman Guy
St. Bernard was one of about 52 parishes in the state to receive some
settlement money in the ANR Pipeline, Southern Natural Gas Co. and Tennessee
Gas lawsuit in which the companies had contested what they deemed unfair
property tax assessment rate.

In other matters, the council introduced an ordinance to accept a donation
from the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation to create a bike
path around the mouth of the Violet Canal. The council also approved two
ordinances that it introduced last month, one to make the parish's complain
system public, and another to permit bed and breakfasts in certain areas of
the parish.

The bed and breakfasts can only rent up to five rooms and boarders only can
stay for up to two weeks.

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