OPELOUSAS — St. Landry Parish President Jessie Bellard, in an effort to be completely transparent, is addressing questions about the budget and other issues at the recent Parish Council Meeting.
“It’s important that our residents know how we are handling their tax dollars,” said Bellard, “and that we are using those funds wisely.”
On the 2023 Annual Budget, Bellard said a balanced budget would be reintroduced at the Parish Council Meeting on March 15, and it will be available for public viewing on the St. Landry Parish website (stlandrypg.org) after it is introduced at the March 15 meeting. A public hearing will also be held before the council meeting on April 19.
“I welcome discussion or questions about the new budget,” said Bellard. “You can view the budget online or pick up a copy in our office. I will be available to meet with anyone that has questions. Stop by or call the office at 337-948-3688. If I am not immediately available, my staff will schedule a meeting at a later time.”
“We made a lot of progress in 2022 with improvements around the parish,” said Bellard. “I think the 2023 Budget reflects the continuation of these improvements and upcoming projects like the new welcome center at the Veterans Memorial and improvements at the airport. We’ll continue to work on parish-wide drainage issues.”
Regarding council members’ line of credit questions at a recent meeting, Bellard said the parish has not needed to borrow from a line of credit opened in 2020 to cover general fund operating expenses. However, he noted that the last administration had done so.
“We’ve not had to use the line of credit for operating expenses,” said Bellard. “We did borrow $1 million in 2020 to purchase new equipment necessary to work on roads, drainage, and maintenance around the parish.”
Bellard emphasized that the old equipment the parish had was costly to maintain and was slowing down progress. Much of the equipment and vehicles spend more time in the repair shop than on the road.
The parish president also addressed questions about not having Caryn Fulop, the Director of Finance, at recent council meetings. Bellard stated that he was the only government official required to attend the meetings. He would not ask his employees to participate in the meetings and be subjected to disrespectful behavior by some council members.
“I will not put my employees through that,” said Bellard. “I will not sit by and continue to allow the condescending and disrespectful behavior that certain council members have displayed toward my employees over the last year.”
Bellard said that his office and the finance department had provided the council with requested budget items. They met with council members to answer questions about the 2022 amended budget and the proposed 2023 budgets.
“We’ve made every effort to help them understand the budget and the budget process,” said Bellard. “We’ve had a sit-down meeting with council members with our parish auditor present. We’ve answered their questions about the financial statements and the budget, and yet at the meetings, they act like we’ve not addressed their questions.”