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Sunday, May 26, 2019

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Council votes to abolish parish wide recreation system

Council votes to abolish parish wide recreation system

The Lafourche Parish Council voted 7-2 on Tuesday to abandon its two-year old parish wide system of recreation, reverting back to individual board districts.

Councilmen Daniel Lorraine and Jerry Lafont voted against the ordinance.

The problem now is that, after two years of the parish wide system, all but one of the four millage drawing districts — Lockport, Raceland, Bayou Blue and Gheens -- have had their millages expire.

Those communities chose to fund their recreation districts through a millage because their share of the parish’s 1.65 mills for recreation was not enough to cover their programs and facilities.

When the parish wide system went into effect, individual boards were forced to disband and their millages, if any, were not renewed.

Only Raceland’s Recreation District #2 still collects a millage because their millage does not expire for several more years.

Part of the new system was the creation of a parish wide advisory board for the purpose of control and oversight of the entire system.

While many saw it as a way of adding needed oversight to the local boards, it forced the bureaucracy of an individual board having to go through a more elaborate purchase order system to buy any of their district’s needs.

Many smaller boards felt it was too difficult to obtain necessities like toilet paper and pencils by having to go through a more burdensome approval process.

Complaints abounded and ultimately the Council chose to abolish the advisory board and reinstate the seven smaller recreation districts, each governed by its own board.

Mr. Raymond Toups, a District 2 board member, asked the Council to consider favoring the ordinance.

“A parish wide board was attempted way back when, but was abandoned. It did not work. One good thing that came out was that of a parish wide tax which was good in a way, but it provided a lot of contention between the communities because everybody felt they weren’t getting their fair share of the parish wide tax. That still goes on,” said Toups.

Lorraine said he thought the new system did some good things by bringing oversight to recreation.

“We now have more control of funds. If you go back the other way we have no control. That’s money for kids. It’s unbelievable the money that was collected and nobody knows just where it went. It brought the check books to where they should be,” he said.

Now, says Lorraine, the little districts that need a millage to fund their programs will have to go back to the voters for approval of a new millage.

“I think voters will be fed up. You won’t see any millage or sales tax passed,” he said.

Jerry Lafont noted that the parish has spent $80,000 on studies on how to make the parish wide system work better.

“We are quitting too soon,” he said.

Interim Parish Administrator Brent Abadie said that the current system could use more time to work out problems.

“We do have better financial accountability now. But we are in a very hostile tax environment. You are going to leave some districts out there with virtually no money now and no way to get it because they are probably not going to get a tax to support them,” said Abadie.

Cory Perrillioux, who sponsored the ordinance, said there is still a need for the parish wide board.

“I still want a parish wide board to oversight the local districts and to oversee the 1.6 mills parish wide. Let’s change course for the sake of the kids,” he said.

Perrillioux and the majority of his fellow council members got their wish.