- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

NEW IBERIA, La. (AP) - Facing drastic cuts, Acadiana Crime Lab pins hope on state study.

The lab, located in New Iberia, serves an eight-parish region including Lafayette. The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1FKNBay ) the lab has tapped out its savings after years of deficits and is avoiding cuts this year only with the help of a special $800,000 appropriation from the state Legislature.

“That’s a one-time thing that we do not expect to see in 2016. It just buys us some time,” crime lab Director Kevin Ardoin said.

The crime lab’s expenses have remained fairly flat in recent years, hovering around $2.5 million.

But the lab’s main source of funding, court costs paid by criminal defendants in Acadiana, has fallen sharply, from about $2.2 million in 2009 to about $1.5 million in 2014.

“We haven’t increased expenses. It’s just a product of the revenues decreasing,” Ardoin said.

The lab has dug deep into prior years’ savings to prop up the budget, which had deficits of around $700,000 for 2013 and 2014.

Ardoin began sounding the alarm over the budget issue in late 2013, and the Legislature formed a task force last year to study the issue.

The group has explored several proposals, including removing exemptions from court costs now granted for certain traffic offenses, seeking an annual state appropriation to cover 25 percent of the lab’s operating budget, and seeking funding from the alcohol and video poker industries and from the pharmaceutical industry because law enforcement agencies are increasingly dealing with the illegal use of prescription drugs.

The task force, which is expected to make its formal recommendations later this month to the Legislature, also has discussed raising some court costs and working with judges throughout the Acadiana region to ensure court costs are being collected.

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

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