- Associated Press - Friday, June 27, 2014

GONZALES, La. (AP) - Fueled by record collections of sales and property taxes buoyed by growth in the industrial sector in 2013, a newly released financial audit finds Ascension Parish government cut its debts by $10 million and boosted its net worth to $152.5 million.

The costs of primary government rose $4.5 million in 2013 to $81.2 million but the majority of that increase came from capital outlays, not operations.

The expenses of general government operations, which includes parish government administrative departments excluding public works, recreation and public safety, actually fell in 2013 by nearly $1.4 million to $11.4 million.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1iMFRK9 ) the Legislative Auditor says the influx in revenue combined with expenses being kept relatively in check resulted in a $5 million boost in surpluses across several parish government funds, including the general fund and the East Ascension drainage district.

These surplus increases resulted in the parish’s net worth rising from $147.5 million in 2012 to $152.5 million in 2013, according to the audit publicized on the Legislative Auditor’s website.

The parish’s auditor Tommy LeJeune said on June 2 that about $17.6 million of the net worth is not dedicated and can be spent as the council sees fit.

He added that the 2013 fiscal year tracks with a trend in parish revenue growth and spending going back to 2009.

“So, basically, what I’m saying is, you’ve had a large uptick in taxes, and you’ve stayed pretty disciplined in your spending,” LeJeune said.

“So you’re spending at the same levels while revenue has grown considerably over this five-year period, which has allowed you to basically bank all the cash. So as a taxpayer, I can tell you that is basically what I like to see.”

Ascension’s combined sales tax revenues rose nearly $8.5 million between in 2012 and 2013, up from $38.6 million to $47.1 million. By comparison, combined sales tax revenues in 2009 were $33.1 million.

Those sales taxes are the 1-cent rural sales tax, the half-cent sales tax for roads and firefighters and the half-cent East Ascension drainage sales tax.

Property tax collections rose $2.8 million between 2012 and 2013, up from $23.5 million in 2012 to $26.3 million, the audit says.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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