Council: No $32 fee for Nov. and Dec.Nov 9th, 2012 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: News
After consulting with parish attorneys in Executive Session, the St. Bernard Parish council amended the
agenda and voted unanimously that the administration stop billing the $32 fire protection charge for the
months of November and December on St. Bernard Parish water bills.
Before the November 4 budget hearings got underway, Finance Director Beverly Gariepy informed the
council that the administration is expecting to receive around $15.6 million in sales tax, up from a $15.1 million estimate.
Councilchair Guy McInnis added that Finance’s estimates were conservative and according to his calculations, could actually be around $16.5 million. Additionally, the parish is expecting to receive around $600,000 from a lawsuit settlement from 2004, pertaining to past due property taxes of a major landowner in the parish.
The initial ordinance imposing the $32 requires the parish is to review sales tax figures monthly to decide if the fee is necessary; so the jump in sales tax revenue paired with the lawsuit settlement makes the charge abolition possible. Additionally, the $32 was to come off of bills after December, regardless of the outcome of the December 8 ballot propositions.
In his most recent newsletter, District D Councilman Casey Hunnicutt explained the importance of the settlement money, and said “if it were not for the lawsuit settlement we could not have taken the same action.”
After several weeks of false starts in court, Judge Perry Nicosia ruled that Judge Robert Buckley not be recused from hearing the $32 case: Peter Rupp (class action) vs. St. Bernard Parish, the council and Parish President David Peralta. After that ruling, Judge Buckley reversed his Sept. 25 order prohibiting the parish from penalizing water bill recipients for not paying the $32 portion of the bill until its legality was established.
But according to the council, it is a moot point. They do not intend to enforce a penalty. In fact, McInnis said there were many people behind on their water bills before the charge was added to the bill. But the parish is interested in the outcome of the lawsuit, and both Rupp and the council said they will
continue it. Rupp said he hopes this means the case will proceed quickly to the injunction hearing, which was originally scheduled for October 5. The next court proceeding
and date have not yet been scheduled.