Monday’s Parish Council Finance Committee meeting saw the 2022 Fiscal Year budget introduced by Patrick Goldsmith, CFO/Treasurer in President Clint Cointment’s administration. $131.5 million in Operating Budget Revenues with projected expenditures of $121.5 million, it is “a conservative” budgetary approach even though Ascension anticipates “a healthy sales tax increase” from 2020. $59 million (45%) of the total revenue is attributable to sales tax collection with $32 million (24%) from property taxes with the remainder considered “Miscellaneous” in the form of fines, fees, interest and the like.
CFO Goldsmith cautioned the committee, 2020’s COVID experience was unlike any other faced by municipalities nationwide and its predictive value is dubious. How much of the pubic spending, generative of those coveted sales tax revenue, was due to multiple rounds of stimulus monies in a fit of federal largesse heretofore unknown in the annals of American history (with apologies to FDR and his New Deal). Hurricane Ida’s aftereffects are yet to be assessed though one would think a healthy spike in building material sales tax is in the offing.
As always, Ascension’s economy is dependent on those petrochemical plants along the Mississippi River for its fiscal viability. Ascension Economic Development Corporation’s (AEDC) Kate MacArthur was on hand Monday to deliver the quarterly report, bearing the good news that two more projects are in the works and requesting the incentive (corporate handout to some) in the form of an Industrial Tax Exemption.
The committee recommended approval of each, along with the $322,800 annual funding for AEDC. Since its 2006 inception (see image above) AEDC has overseen (with an assist from the Big Muddy and ITEP) $10.6 billion in capital investment creating 3,232 jobs with annual cumulative wages of $199 million. That is an impressive $1,652 for every dollar invested in AEDC.
Once the ITEP provisions expire those newly constructed facilities join Ascension’s property tax rolls infusing those dollars funding much of what is good in Ascension.
A Capital Improvement budget of $72.4 million was unveiled with the majority of those dollars earmarked for the Road & Bridge Fund and the MoveAscension program. With several major drainage projects in the formative stages, heavily reliant upon Louisiana Watershed Initiative, significant movement could occur to the Five-Year Capital Improvement Projects presented.