PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

August 15, 2011

PA looking at EDC funding to plug leaky waterlines

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

BEAUMONT —

Port Arthur’s City Council is looking for ways to shore up an estimated $3.75 million budget deficit while trying to find money to plug leaky or malfunctioning waterlines all over the city.

One way to offset the expenditure without having to go to taxpayers is to shift funding from the city’s Economic Development Corporation from 4A projects to specific 4B projects.

In a joint meeting between the City Council and the EDC Tuesday, a proposal to have a special election in November regarding the use of EDC funds will be discussed.

The City has proposed using a portion of the money the EDC gets from sales tax revenue for specific 4B projects such as repairs to waterlines and waterline facilities, recreational and parks facilities and projects related to business development.

EDC Director Floyd Batiste said the Council has the right to ask voters how to use EDC money, as long as the projects are in accordance with the law.

In May 2009 voters approved a proposition allowing the EDC to dedicate $750,000 in sales tax funds annually for three years for eligible development projects within the targeted areas from Seventh Street to the Intracoastal Canal and from Martin Luther King Jr., Drive to Lake Charles Avenue.

To fund the projects, the EDC would dedicate an eighth of the half-cent already collected from sales tax revenue reimbursements.

Batiste said EDC board of directors had met and were ready to assist and help the citizens of Port Arthur and the city government as much as they could while maintaining their existence.

“We have projects on the board, but if we don’t have the money, we can’t make those projects,” Batiste said.

Depending on how much the city asks for, and if voters approve the measure, the EDC might have to dip into its reserve funds. Currently, the EDC has about $7.5 million to $7.8 million in reserves.

The city at the end of September will have an estimated $20 million in reserves.

City Manager Steve Fitzgibbons said the expenditure to make the water line repairs would be substantial.

“I think the discussion Tuesday will be to try and find a balance to help the city, but not compromise the EDC,” Fitzgibbons said.

skoonce@panews.com