OPELOUSAS — An annual audit report finds the city of Opelousas is projected to have an operating fund deficit of at least $1.1 million by the end of the 2013 fiscal year.
Accountant Troy Courville told the Board of Aldermen Tuesday the city has made strides in reducing its annual deficit from $3 million at the end of the 2010 fiscal year to $1.13 million in 2012.
Courville says that rate of deficit reduction won’t be enough to forestall the projected shortfall by Aug. 31.
While sales tax revenue has increased, Courville said, that is offset by a $1 million annual increase in what the city pays into pension funds for police officers, firefighters and other civil service workers.
Councilmen oppose bridge toll election
GRETNA — Two Jefferson Parish councilmen are asking the Legislature to call off the New Orleans-area election in May on whether to resume tolls on the Crescent City Connection bridge.
In a letter sent to lawmakers on Tuesday, Councilmen Chris Roberts and Elton Lagasse say the only way to tell whether the state can keep up the bridge without tolls is to let it try.
They say the parish council will vote today on a similar request.
Tolls were suspended last week after a state judge in Baton Rouge nullified the Nov. 6 election to extend them for 20 years. District Judge William Morvant ruled that about 100 voters casting provisional ballots in Jefferson Parish were denied a vote. The tolls passed by 36 votes.
Rayne man pleads guilty in wire fraud
LAFAYETTE — U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley says a 53-year-old salesman has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a scheme that bilked Rayne tire company Interco out of nearly $143,900.
Finley said Tuesday that Deynoodt Joseph Besse, of Rayne, entered the plea Monday before U.S. District Court Judge Richard Haik. His sentencing date has not been scheduled.
Besse worked Interco’s sales department from Aug. 1, 1997 to Aug. 3, 2010.
Finley says that in January 2003, he created a company called INT Sales. According the indictment, Besse would set up sales for Interco but use a point of sale device that credited customers’ money to his company.
He could get up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, followed by three years of supervised release.
Pineville to meet
on alcohol sales
PINEVILLE — After hearing from two developers urging for a change in the law to allow for restaurant alcohol sales in the city limits, the Pineville City Council scheduled a town hall meeting on the issue.
The council passed a resolution to hold a town hall on March 26 at City Hall.
The city has been “dry” since a vote in 1980 passed to eliminate all alcohol sales in Pineville.
Local Realtors and developers Rod Noles and Matt Ritchie spoke Tuesday to the council about the issue.
Noles said he has had a number of hotel chains say they will not build without their guests having the option of having a beer or wine or such with their meal in a nearby restaurant.
Council considers 24-hour liquor sales for casinos
BATON ROUGE — Casinos could be the only establishments in East Baton Rouge Parish allowed to sell alcohol after 2 a.m.
The Metro Council will vote today on an ordinance creating a new license for the gambling facilities.
Under the proposed change, sponsored by Councilwoman Denise Marcelle, Baton Rouge casinos could buy an annual license for $5,000 to sell alcohol for 24 hours a day.
The three casinos currently operate around the clock, but are required to end alcohol sales between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. every day, as is the case for bars and package liquor stores, except for Sundays, when the sales are cut off from 2 a.m. until 11 a.m.
Marcelle called it a “common sense” change that would benefit the casinos economically and create jobs.
Citizens Property CEO retiring
BATON ROUGE — Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Chief Executive Officer Richard Robertson says he plans to retire June 1.
Robertson said he will return to Michigan.
He had been general manager of Michigan Basic Property Insurance Association, Michigan’s state-backed insurer, for 20 years before taking the job at Citizens.
Robertson’s retirement announcement is on the agenda for the board’s Thursday meeting.
DNR grants permit for salt cavern work
LAFAYETTE — The state Department of Natural Resources has granted the first of three state permits for the proposed expansion of an underground natural gas storage operation in the salt dome under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish.
AGL Resources is proposing to scour out two new salt caverns for its Jefferson Island Storage & Hub facility, where two existing caverns have been used for gas storage since the 1990s.
The proposed expansion has drawn opposition from residents living around the lake, several public officials in the area and environmental groups.
Save Lake Peigneur President Nara Crowley said Tuesday that she and other opponents repeatedly have raised the issue of the large sinkhole in Assumption Parish that is tied to a collapsed salt cavern.
Hearing on federal health care law
BATON ROUGE — State lawmakers are slated to discuss the pros and cons of expanding Louisiana’s Medicaid program to cover more uninsured adults.
The Senate and House insurance committees planned a hearing today to get information about the federal health care law that allows for the expansion.
Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes the expansion, but lawmakers haven’t voted on the idea. A bill has been filed to authorize the expansion, for consideration in the upcoming legislative session that begins April 8.
Jindal calls the Medicaid expansion an inappropriate growth of an inefficient, government-run health program and too costly for states, though the federal government would pick up the bulk of the price tag.
Estimates are that as many as 400,000 more Louisiana residents could be eligible for Medicaid under an expansion.
Lawmaker wants term limits
BATON ROUGE — An Iberia Parish lawmaker again is seeking to put term limits on all statewide elected officials, after voters overwhelmingly supported such limits for school boards.
Republican Rep. Simone Champagne has filed the proposal to limit statewide elected officials to three consecutive four-year terms. Lawmakers will consider the measure in the legislative session that begins in April.
Champagne has proposed the idea in past sessions, but it failed to win enough support for passage. Because it is a constitutional change, it needs two-thirds support from lawmakers and voter approval.
Champagne’s bill would apply to the lieutenant governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner, insurance commissioner, secretary of state and treasurer. Louisiana’s governor is limited to two consecutive terms.
In November, voters around the state agreed to place term limits on local school boards.
From The Associated Press.