- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

GRETNA, La. (AP) - A 5 percent cost-of-living raise for about 3,200 Jefferson Parish government employees highlights the $607 million budget that Parish President John Young’s administration is proposing for 2016.

The New Orleans Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1HpREKX) the parish council is expected to vote on the budget next month, which will be Young’s last as Jefferson’s president. He will be succeeded in January by Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni, who handily won the president’s job last month while Young fell short in his bid for the lieutenant governor’s seat.

The budget Young has proposed is $27 million more than the one for this year, which itself was $25 million more than the 2014 spending plan. It includes $464 million for operations and $68 million for infrastructure improvements. Another $50.4 million will go to debt service and $24.6 million to grants.

Despite the increases, officials said they do not believe residents will see much of a change in the level of services provided by the parish because of restrictions on how the parish’s money can be spent, conservative fiscal projections and a commitment to stashing any money not immediately needed into reserve funds meant to preserve the parish’s solid, AA bond rating.

What most distinguishes the proposed 2016 budget is the raise for parish workers, which would cost about $6.7 million. The Young administration is funding the raises largely by leaving vacant positions unfilled, slightly increasing health insurance costs to workers and reducing employer contributions to the parish’s retirement system by 1.5 percent.

Another notable feature: $5.9 million of infrastructure improvements for the parish library system, some of which will be used to build a new branch in River Ridge.

Otherwise, the proposed budget contains few surprises.

By law, most of the money Jefferson Parish brings in must be used for specific purposes, such as streets or drainage work. Those specific purposes command about 78 percent of the operating revenue projected in the 2016 budget.

The Parish Council and administration can decide how the remaining money, the general fund, is spent, but even that cash has restrictions.

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Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com

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