It is not very often that hard numbers are presented, even less frequent that definitive declarations are made, relating to Ascension Parish Government fiscal matters. It makes one appreciate the simplicity of bar graphs all the more. Faulk & Winkler’s Tommy Lejeune and Jacob Waguespack presented the one above (see below for others) at last week’s meeting of the governing authority, i.e. Council which appropriates every dollar spent by APG.
Blue indicates the Operational budget for the last five years, under former president Tommy Martinez (2014-15) and President Kenny Matassa (2016-18). Year threes of the Matassa reign saw that budget grow from (call it) $52 million in Martinez’ last year to $65 million in 2018 ($4.4 million of last year’s budget was attributable to a grant for particular project at or near Houmas House according to the accountants). Any way you cut it, Matassa’s 2018 Operational Budget was 25% more than his predecessor’s.
We are sure it will have increased by 2019’s end.
That’s because Matassa continues to add personnel in inverse proportion to the dwindling number of days left in his embarrassing, disgraceful tenure. The fewer days he has in office, the more political patronage he intends to dispense. With nothing to lose, the lamest of lame-ducks and his cronies are taking anything that isn’t bolted down.
Every dollar devoted to operations is one less for sorely needed capital improvement. It might be justified were taxpayers receiving commensurate value in services.
It is the responsibility, the solemn duty, of the Council to stop him. Don’t hold your breath.
Governmental entities (which includes EA Drainage) took in $114 million in revenue last year, sales/property taxes accounting for $88 million. Another $14 million was gotten from grants with the remainder generated from fees and miscellany.
The amount transferred for Capital Projects shrunk significantly from 2017 to last year, with MoveAscension road improvement initiative just about the only new construction projects on the books. APG is devoting quite a bit more to Utilities, attributable to the purchase of a west bank water plant and whatever is going on with east bank sanitary sewer.
A suddenly curious Councilman Bill Dawson asked Faulk & Winkler to differentiate “non-recurring revenues” from the rest, noting that no “big industrial projects” are ongoing. Ascension’s best sales tax collection year was 2016 when CF Industries and other industrial projects were nearing completion. Dawson and Chairwoman Teri Casso both advocated for “multi-year budgeting” which discussed during last year’s sham Home Rule Charter Revision Committee proceedings.
When Dawson revealed that committee’s true intent, proposing a private group’s plan to abolish the parish presidency, necessary and prudent amendments to the existing charter were ignored. Dawson and Casso were joined on that revision committee by District 7 representative Aaron Lawler, the only three votes to place A Better Ascension’s hostile corporate takeover on the ballot.
Now chairing Finance, we hope Bill Dawson exerts commensurate energies to hold Matassa’s profligate administration to account. Then Finance chair, Teri Casso had this to say in August 2018:
“We cannot continue the way we have. It is not sustainable. We will end up with payroll that is so exorbitant…and incompetent people, not getting their job done; or not being held accountable for the jobs we ask them to do. That is just not acceptable in the modern world.”