The Commissioners Court held its first in a series of budget workshops Monday. Five departments in the county had their budget requests discussed and reviewed with the Court.
This coming year’s budget for Orange County is going to be very lean because FEMA has not provided any of the reimbursement to the county for the cleanup following Hurricane Laura in 2020. The Commissioners are expecting close to $11 million from the federal government for the recovery by the county from that storm.
County Judge John Gothia thinks the situation has been conveyed effectively to the county department heads that large capital outlay items requested by them will not get initial approval from the Commissioners. He added the Court cannot forecast a budget until those FEMA funds are received.
In the next year Judge Gothia predicted County Auditor Pennee Schmitt will be doing special budgets throughout the year as the FEMA money starts coming into the county. “Right now, the focus is what we have to change and we have to adjust to for this year and so it’s going to be pretty minimal as far as any requests coming, but most every department understands that,” Gothia concluded.
Patrick Beebe over the Mosquito Control Department is requesting a $23,233 increase in his budget to cover mostly more aerial spraying and the increase in cost for chemicals. Transportation Director Janell Dischler is asking for an upgrade in software and computer tablets to help move the department towards cashless transactions for its customers.
Maintenance Director Kurt Guidry has a $238,000 carry over request for a phone service upgrade. Guidry reminded the Commissioners of a 1180 square foot building planned for the Elections Administration Office building to store new electronic voting machines.
Joel Ardoin oversees the Emergency Management and the Environmental Health and Code Departments. He requested a capital outlay expense for a new building at the County Convention and Expo Center to store COVID vaccines.
The Sheriff’s Office is requesting increases for fuel oil, gasoline, and grease to cover additional use of patrol vehicles by deputies. It is hoped the American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA will cover most of the Sheriff’s other budget requests.
The budget workshops continue on Tuesday. Management Information Systems, Social Service including Public Health, and the Road and Bridge Departments will meet with the Commissioners Court in the Administration Building of the Courthouse beginning at 9:00 AM.
-Dan Perrine, KOGT-