According to parish president Jessie Bellard, rising fuel prices are beginning to affect how the parish government of St. Landry provides services, while the decline in the use of aviation gasoline results in a deficit at the parish airport.
Bellard said Thursday that routine road maintenance work provided by road crews could be reduced somewhat due to fuel costs. However, other services provided by the parish government, such as hauling earth, leveling roads and digging ditches, are expected to continue.
Employees who have vehicles belonging to the parish government, Bellard said, are now mandated to park the vehicles in the Yambilee building just west of Opelousas and not drive the vehicles home in order to save money. on fuel.
“Our budget for (gasoline) from our roads and bridges fund will soon be reached. This means that we may not be able to do as much as expected with our normal road works,” Bellard said.
In January, the parish council approved an annual budget that reflects planned expenditures of $59,800 for gasoline from the Roads and Bridges Fund, which is used for the maintenance of road repair equipment and the provision of related services.
“At this point, we have spent about $54,000 of this budget on roads and bridges for fuel (gasoline). So looking at that number, we’re going to be aiming for over $100,000 by the end of the (budget) year (Dec. 31),” Bellard said.
Heavy machinery operated by parish workers sometimes uses diesel fuel for roads and drainage issues are currently supplied by Guillory Oil Company, according to Bellard.
“We’ve offered the amount we intend to use for our diesel, but diesel fuel, as everyone knows right now, is just five dollars a gallon,” Bellard said.
According to the annual parish government budget reviewed last week at a parish council finance committee meeting, $27,591 of a budget of $46,400 had been spent on Road and Bridge Fund diesel fuel as of April 30.
The Road and Bridge Fund had a cash balance of $48,214 nearly 60 days ago, but the same budget also showed that spending for that budget was overspent by $777,630.
Much of the Road and Bridge account’s revenue comes from funding Evangeline Downs slots and state-provided transportation fund money.
This year, the parish government has budgeted $1.18 million for gaming revenue and $690,300 from the transportation fund.
Bellard said to relieve the budget of fuel price stress, he plans to get more creative with the budget.
“The parish charter gives me the ability to use budget line powers, so we’re looking at the budget now and going through the budget line by line to move the money around and deal with the high fuel prices,” Bellard said. .
Vehicle used by employees
Bellard estimates that the parish government owns at least 10 trucks and SUVs that are normally used daily by employees.
In a revised plan to reduce fuel costs, Bellard said he told workers who use vehicles for parish government business to now park vehicles at the Yambilee Building.
“We no longer allow our workers to drive vehicles home unless those employees are on call. Some members of the work crew are on call 24 hours a day, so they can bring (vehicles) home,” Bellard added.
Finance Chairman Wayne Ardoin said in an interview Thursday that he plans to ask for the number and names of parish government employees who drive parish-owned vehicles.
“I think that would be something we want to know, which is how many vehicles are out there … them and who the people are that have them,” Ardoin said.
Bellard said all employees who drive parish-owned vehicles reside within the parish of St. Landry.
“We have a fuel card that we give to our employees for parish vehicles and this card allows them to buy fuel at reduced rates. All of our gas is purchased from local companies. We don’t buy gas for our vehicles from places where the money goes out of state,” Bellard said.
Parish council member Jerry Red Jr. told Bellard during the finance committee meeting that there is no reason for a parish government employee to have access to a vehicle that is driven to residences, unless the employee is on call.
Fuel prices at the airport
Ardoin and other members of the finance committee asked Bellard about a $62,629 shortfall in the airport’s budget recorded on April 30.
The sale of aviation fuel is the airport’s main source of revenue, Bellard told the parish council.
The budget shows that $197,400 has been budgeted for fuel sales to airports and 26% or $51,395 has been sold to aircraft since January 1.
Bellard said aviation fuel sales at the Parish airport lagged as prices jumped to $5.95 a gallon.
“We (the parish government) make $1.25 a gallon on jet fuel and about 75 cents a gallon on aviation gasoline on small planes,” Bellard said at the finance committee meeting.
Bellard told the Committee that he still had about $26,000 worth of aviation fuel on hand that he purchased several months ago due to the expected increase in airman activity.
“Right now we are seeing people not flying as much as they used to because aviation fuel has become so expensive. We have tried to stay competitive with our fuel prices and encourage more purchases at airport. We have a big surplus (of fuel) right now,” Bellard told the Committee.