NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Jefferson Parish council gave a thumbs-up to 2018 operating and capital budgets for the parish as well as a professional service contract extension for inmate health care that will cost millions.
With the new year fast approaching, the council green-lighted a $645 million budget for the day-to-day operation of parish government. There is also a separate construction spending plan that was approved.
"For the first time we have, we're now up to about a $76 million capital budget, and that's just our standard, annual capital budget that we do for capital improvements. That's outside of, like, our… sales tax for our major public works renewals. This is just maintenance and projects that we have do within our departments," said Parish President Mike Yenni.
Still, the budget process was not without pain.
"Almost $15 million in cuts, and so any unfilled positions that we didn't need, any other areas and departments we were able to cut, a non-millage department because of course millage departments are funded through those mills, so that helps keep those departments alive," said Yenni.
He said no workers lost their jobs.
"We've done no RIFs, [reduction in force] as far as, you know, termination of employees. Because of that, basically they were open positions that we just had to cross-train employees," said Yenni.
Sales tax revenues continue to lag.
"Projecting a zero to maybe one percent sales tax increase, so it's pretty flat. Last year was pretty flat, so when that sales tax doesn't help generate those non-millage departments that's where we have to make cuts," Yenni stated.
The parish council also voted to extend for a year a professional service contract with CorrectHealth Jefferson, LLC., for a year. The company provides healthcare services to inmates at the parish's correctional center in Gretna. The contract extension has a price tag of $4.7 million.
The director of Jefferson's Community Justice Agency was in support.
"CorrectHealth Jefferson has performed I think a valuable service, a necessary service, this service is mandated by state law," said Ronald Lampard, in addressing the council before the vote.
The competitive bid process was not reopened, and the parish's inspector general refused to comment on the matter.
But Yenni defended the contract extension.
"When the contract was originally put out almost three years ago it had two one-year options. This is the last one-year option to renew, it can't exceed the CPI that's in the contract and again they're providing a very good cost for us in prison healthcare, it's important and next year we'll have to go out," said Yenni.
And he also was asked about the healthcare company HCA wanting to operate the parish owned East Jefferson Hospital in Metairie.
"We support the board's move, we just want to make sure this lease agreement is lock-solid and some of the mistakes that were made in the past in my opinion will not be made and we can correct those and move forward with East Jefferson," Yenni said.