That’s just the way we’ve done it.
It’s a combination of words everyone has heard before, and for some it’s the mantra of life but, for others, it’s an opportunity to contest what’s established – in pursuit of something better.
Thursday night’s council meeting provided just that opportunity. In 2017, the parish administration convinced the council to forgo the road program for that fiscal year to save money to match up for grants. The gamble paid dividends, as the parish ended up with over double it’s normal allotment for the next two years in 2018 and 2019.
The process was a responsible one, fiscally, because technically state and federal grant money is taxpayer dollars. It just went somewhere else to sit for a few years, earn some interest for someone else, then come back but can only be used for a certain purpose.
It’s a little frustrating, but thankfully the parish has federal, state, and local leadership that knows how to play the game and get those dollars back.
However, there was an unforeseen consequence to the play. In order to qualify for the most dollars available, the parish had to wait to issue match money until later in the year. Unfortunately, that meant the full dollar amount for that year’s road program didn’t hit the parish’s bank account until the summer, which meant contracts couldn’t be signed until June or July.
Combined with mobilization time, the road program in 2018 started late – and then dragged the next year into a domino effect. 2019’s road program won’t be complete until June 2020.
Parish Councilman Shane Mack (District 9) challenged the assertion that the timeline had to be that way. That challenge led to interesting debate at the council meeting, one that will lead to a better timeline for 2020’s road program and beyond. The council will discuss the available funding and roads in the program in April, and hope to sign a contract extension to move immediately from the 2019 program into 2020.
In doing so the next year, the parish hopes to get on track with their road program and have each year completed in the calendar period that was adopted.
Or as close to it as possible, anyway, because the parish has little choice in the matter – they need the grant funding.
In 2013, for the Master Plan, it was calculated that in order to keep up with proper parish road maintenance there would need to be a fund of $12 million, per year, to make that happen. With grant money, that’s entirely doable, but without? Impossible, even after the road bond debt is paid off in 2021 and the parish reclaims $4.5 million per year.
That will go a long way in grant match, as well.
However, there will be other challenges ahead for many reasons, including the information the parish received on the Juban Crossing Development District Thursday night, showing the developer had to kick in $655k just to make the bond payment – debt which was issued in 2013 to help with sewer and roads in the area.
According to many folks on social media, the gig was up – the high sales taxes were apparent on every bill and receipt issued in the area, and many consumers were going to find somewhere else to shop.
While much of the sales tax still stays in Livingston Parish, and those numbers are up, the parish doesn’t need to holster another debt should Juban Crossing have more financial trouble.
It was already saddled with over $4 million per year, it doesn’t need that again.
J. McHugh David is editor and publisher of the Livingston Parish News.