Home Rule Charter vs Police Jury

By Russell Rachal/Opinion

The Natchitoches Parish Council met in regular session on August 19, 2019.

There was an item on the agenda for the Council to consider adopting Ordinance 010-2019 allowing the residents of Natchitoches Parish to vote and make their own decision on whether they want to remain with the current form of Government, the Home Rule Charter, or go back to the Police Jury form of Government.

When presented, Councilman de Grafferied posed the question as to what the salary was going to be for each Police Juror if we reverted back to the Police Jury form of Government, and what the districts were going to be. The Parish Clerk and Councilman Paige advised that these items would be determined at a later date. After a lengthy discussion, the motion failed 3-2, with Council members Hoover, Bedgood, and Paige voting in favor, and Council members de Graffenried and Rachal voting in opposition. The motion required a two-thirds majority to pass, which would have required 4 members voting in favor.

The reason that I voted in opposition was because during the Special called meeting in June, when this Ordinance was introduced by title only, there was no mention of the repealing of the Home Rule Charter, no salaries, and no district lines being mentioned. Section 7-01 of the Home Rule Charter states that a petition to repeal or amend the charter must contain the full text of the proposed amendment, amendments, or repeal of the charter. There was never an Ordinance introduced to set any of these perimeters, although they were all listed in Ordinance 010-2019 for final passage.

In addition, Section 2-04 of the Home Rule Charter states the salary for a Council member shall be $500 per month. Council members shall not be entitled to fringe benefits including but not limited to health insurance, life insurance and retirement benefits. This sets the maximum cost to the Parish at $30,000 annually.

If we reverted back to the Police Jury form of Government, Louisiana Revised Statute 33:1233A(2)(b)(ii) states that the Police Jury, may elect, by a vote of a majority of the elected members, to be paid on a salary basis, in which event the maximum salary allowable shall be one thousand six hundred ($1,600) per month for each member of the Police Jury. A Police Jury may provide for an increase in the salary of a Police Juror serving as President of the Police Jury in an amount not to exceed four hundred dollars per month more than the salary established for members of the Police Jury. Louisiana Revised Statute 33:1233A(3) states that in addition to any other compensation or expense allowance provided by law, each parish governing authority which does not operate under a home rule charter may pay a monthly, itemized expense allowance, not to exceed two hundred dollars per month, to the members of the governing authority as payment for actual expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.

If the jurors were paid $1,600 each per month, plus the $200 expense allowance, this would total $21,600 each or $216,000 annually. If the Police Jury president was paid $2,000 per month, plus the $200 expense allowance, this would bring his total to $26,400 annually. If these were combined, this would be a cost of $242,400 to the Parish annually. This is not inclusive of the health insurance, life insurance, and retirement benefits the Police Jurors would receive. If you were to take the potential salaries of the Police Jurors and Police Jury President at $242,000 and subtract the current salaries of the Natchitoches Parish Council members at $30,000, you would see that we are saving the Parish $212,400 annually.

The Home Rule Charter sets the Parish President’s annual salary at $80,000. When you take into consideration that if we reverted back to the Police Jury form of government, it would constitute a position of Parish Administrator. Prior to the inception of the Home Rule Charter, the Parish Administrator’s salary exceeded the $80,000 salary that is afforded the Parish President under the Home Rule Charter.

Based on this information, if administered correctly, the Home Rule Charter form of government is the best of the two forms of government.

Thank you and God Bless you,

Russell Rachal
Natchitoches Parish Council
District 5

39 thoughts on “Home Rule Charter vs Police Jury

  1. All that means nothing! We still have the worst roads in Louisiana! Talk is cheap! Quit sinking all our money into the city and spend some in the parish! I think we fire em all and start over! Can’t get any worse!

  2. Mr. Rachal has again shown us the importance of his being on the council. Thank you for being there and staying the course.

  3. I understand reading is cool and all but how would you like to read
    a bill ranging from $500 to 2,000 for a new front end or tires due to a
    pot hole ?

    • Do you actually think the pot holes and roads would be fixed if we reverted back to the Police Jury form of government.

  4. Thank you Mr. Rachel for your clear explanation of the costs of reviving the police jury government. We should be finished with police juries for financial reasons alone. In March Natchitoches voters outside the city had a chance to vote themselves better roads, but the vote failed. Elections do have consequences. If library funding is cut, we will have poor roads AND poorly educated people. The Internet has few free impartial and authoritative reference sources such as the Gale Reference sources for which the library pays fees. Many young men secure good positions in the military by studying for their ASVAD test at the library. Single mothers have received jobs that took them off food stamps and Medicaid by using library computers and printers to prepare their resumes.

  5. Well stated, Mr. Rachal. HRCs savings in salaries and benefits for those elected to serve the parish alone demonstrate its superiority.

    The real problem is, as you clearly pointed out, the Parish’s allocation of resources. When 3.2 million go to the jurassic park known as the library while only 1.4 million go towards road construction and maintenance the votors of Natchitoches have no one but themselves blame for the busted shocks and cracked rims on their vehicles.

    Perhaps next time the library tax comes up for renewal voters will realize, despite the guilt inducing rhetoric of those supporting a dinosaur whose inevitable demise has long since been sealed by the advent of the personal computer, google and smart phones, that prioritizing safe and effective transportation corridors throughout our Parish doesn’t, despite the arguments of library supporters, equal a hatred of books, children or educational opportunities.

    I’ve even heard that NSU has a nice library right here in town chock-full of books and other resource materials. Imagine what I might have accomplished if they had such a thing on campus back in the stone ages when I attended. I’m betting that NSU would be willing to set aside a section of the first floor as a children’s area for considerably less than 3.2 million. Maybe it could even be located next to the Starbucks housed there for the convenience of the parents of the small number of children that actually take advantage of such opportunities.

  6. The vote at the meeting was to let the people of Natchitoches parish decide what they want, correct? It wasn’t actually to put the police jury back in place. I haven’t seen one better than the other but I do think that the people of the parish should be allowed to decide what they want.

    • We did vote for what we wanted when we chose the HRC over the old Police Jury. Obviously if the old PJ was working the HRC initiative would have failed.

      Since the creation of the HRC three members of the council have actively sabotaged it. The people of the parish have not had a chance to see how well the HRC can operate. Many of us would like to give it a fair shot. Then if things don’t improve a vote to change things would be acceptable.

    • The people did get to decide and they chose HRC! You have some left overs from the jury who have undermined it from day one for personal agendas! 2 admitted they don’t understand how it works and one openly wants it to fail. One reason they are about to be term limited and changing back will re-start their terms. One common denominator is the three stooges have served on both! Both forms work everywhere else but not here??

    • You are absolutely correct. It seems Mr. Rachel is expounding on an issue, or what HE FEELS IS AN ISSUE, long before the residents of Natchitoches Parish are allowed to even vote. GOOD OLE BOY SYSTEM is never ending.

      • It is an issue! He’s doing a great job with the 3 Stooges fighting him and Doug on everything! The jury failed for years with those clowns.Everyone knows why they want to go back to the jury system! Both forms of governments work every where BUT HERE! WHY IS THAT?

    • That issue was decided by the people just a few years ago when we voted to do away with the Police Jury and institute Home Rule. Leave well enough alone.

  7. Thank you, Mr Rachal, for the facts as well as your opinion. I would like to personally review a full disclosure of the funds received and spent by the parish government for the last physical year as well as the same for the last year of the police jury form of government.

    I think that you would agree that the type of government selected isn’t what you, or I, feel would be the most effective, after all, no two people can be in perpetual agreement.

    I hear opinions on both forms of government, but I believe that the voters of Natchitoches Parish must, first and foremost, be allowed to excercise their Constitutional Rights by ballot.

    What ever type of governing body chosen can work, provided the elected officials maintain honesty, integrity, and total clarity.

  8. And the library has 2 book mobiles plus drivers… sorry but that’s an antiquated concept and a waste of limited resources. If we were flush with money, maybe we could afford those luxuries but road and infrastructure are critical. As voters we can not afford those luxuries while our infrastructure crumbles and interferes with attracting new industries. Please vote down at least half the librariy’s tax money they currently receive. Its ridiculous, bordering on insanity!

    • How is having 2 Book mobiles an antiquated concept and a waste of money? Can you imagine how much the literacy rate would drop in this parish if the library and its outreach programs were eliminated? Little kids from all over the parish wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn how to read. The sad fact is that without a parent to read to them and books to read themselves, kids do so poorly in school, it would set this parish back. In a time when we’re trying to attract businesses here, it seems foolish to have a dumber population.

      • hell most the state is illiterate and can’t graduate we are already dealing with dummies now fix our roads !!

      • Lady Jade. I appreciate your compassion but we are talking luxuries Vs necessities. It’s about prioritization.

    • When something is supported by tax dollars doesn’t it seem odd the the library has $2,000,000 in cash reserves yet the parish infrastructure is in shambles. Take out the free internet and see how many show up at the library.

      • How on earth does the library have anything to do with the Home Rule Charter? So I assume you think books are a ridiculous form of education?

  9. this state has money we sit on a lot of oil but the crooked politicians
    who pocket this money would rather see our infrastructure fail and
    education rather then fix the issues.The roads all over the state suck except for the interstates that are federal.

  10. Sadly these facts won’t make any difference to those that have been ignoring facts in the first place. Thank you for laying it out.

  11. Seems to me the three voting for the Police Jury are the individuals needing a new position that doesn’t involve trying to screw over the tax payers of the parish. Vote them out, greed and self interest appears to be their sole motivation.

  12. Thank you for clarifying this; we get a lot of complaints around here but very little clarity, it seems, and this is very straightforward. I admire your positive ethics when it comes to the finances of the parish. We cannot afford to have a pork belly committee running the local government that is siphoning off the already tight budget into their pockets.

  13. Thanks to you, and to Mr. Doug D. for standing up for the taxpayers/people of the parish. I have always thought the primary motivator of the three members is personal greed. They simply want more money to do nothing for the parish.

    Another question I have is the library. How much of the parish’s budget is geared toward the library? I ask that because I have often heard it said it gobbles up a lot, with high paid librarians and money wasted, which could be better spent on the roads.

    • Jason check the parish and city budgets for the amount the library receives each year. I think you will be shocked. I was. Both are available on line.

      • The money the library receives is a dedicated tax that cannot be moved to other areas. The library offers a wonderful service to the public. The librarians are not highly paid but go above and beyond to provide programming the public wants and needs. If you think the library is a waste of money, go visit one day and look around. Notice all the people using the free computers and Internet, the children and parents checking out books, the people attending free classes after hours. This is one example of money well spent.

    • Really. You’d pull money from public education and media access? There are a lot of other places where funds are actually being wasted. This is not one of them. I always wonder about people who seem to think that libraries and schools get a lot of money; is education not a focus for you? Why not? Our area can use all the educated people we can get, and I don’t necessarily mean college degrees. The library in town serves as a public hub, with internet access and spaces for groups to meet and learn, as well as many programs for children and adults. We don’t have anything else like it in town, so there’s no competition for services, so to speak. If you don’t use a service, don’t imagine that it is wasted; many people do, and they do not feel that way.

      • There are 38,000 people in Natchitoches Parish, out of that number, how many use the library? And how many use the roads? I bet more folks are dependent on the roads, but that’s just a guess.

        I am not advocating closing the library, only reallocating some of the funds. This definitely needs to go up for a vote, parish wide, when the renewal time comes. I would hope clear heads can get together and work something out. If not, the library risks losing all, or most, of its funding. There are a lot of people who have been pushed to the edge by the lousy roads and are likely to support a ballot eliminating the parish library in favor of roads.

        I say again, I support a parish library, but these are tough times and it gets too large a piece of the pie.

    • There was a total of $37,371,004.33 collected in total Parish and Local taxes for the calendar year of 2018. The Library receives 6.9 mills each year by a vote of the taxpayers. The total taxes that the Library received in 2018 was $3,235,038.81. The Parish received $1,375,358.59 for Road District #40. If anyone doesn’t agree with the amount that any one entity receives each year, it must be voted down at the polls when it comes up for renewal.

      • The library gets $3.2 million and the roads only $1.3 million? Well, then I don’t want to see any more complaining about the roads. Walk to the library and enjoy all the “free” services.

        I say walk because you won’t be able to drive to it.

    • Over 900k per year in salaries for 24 employees in the library system. Some are knocking down pretty good salaries. How much do school teachers make in the parish?

      • $900,000 divided by 24 employees equals $37,500 per employee on average. Not an enormous sum to me. A better number would be a breakdown of each person’s salary. One then could make arguments about whose salary needed to be adjusted downward if desired.

      • Let me preface this by stating “this is what I was told.” I have not seen anything official, in writing. But, as a taxpayer-funded entity somewhere there is a published budget with a list of employees and their salaries, and all other line items.

        But, I was told 4 employees make in access of $70,000/year. If true that leaves 20 employees making an average of $31,000/year. Consider that some are probably part time, that means that all full time employees are doing very well. And, why do they need 24 employees? Really?

        Here’s what I’d like to see, Bob Black and “the library” need to step up and offer a budget cut plan, cutting it from $3.2 million down to $2 million (which is still too high IMO) allowing the parish to shift $1.2 million into the highway department, or maybe most of it, and a little elsewhere. Otherwise, Mr. Black, the voters of the parish may adjust your budget for you and you won’t like that result.

        REMEMBER the library tax comes up for renewal every 10 years. If the voters say NO to it, it’s bye bye library as you know it.

        Let me hasten to add, before the arrows start flying, I support the public library, even though I personally don’t use it. It’s just that these are tough times and the parish has more pressing matters, and needs the money.

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