Minden Press-Herald

Wednesday
Oct 01st

State wants local funds

19413177 BG1Emergency management funds may be reduced by 68 percent to Webster Parish's Office of Homeland Security. The funds would be taken by the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP).

Sandy Davis, Homeland Security Region 7 director, explained the money typically given to local entities may be used by the state to pay for salaries.

"Each state receives an Emergency Management Performance Grant, or EMPG money," Davis said. "About five million dollars is given to the state from the federal government. Then the state directs where the funds go."

Davis said GOHSEP divides the money among the 64 parishes.

"In the past, funds were distributed based on population," he said. "So smaller parishes got very little. However about five years ago, the regional directors and GOHSEP decided to give a base of $22,000 a year to every parish – regardless of the population. Then based on their population they would get an additional amount."

Caddo and Bossier parishes are overseen by Davis, who said the portion of the EMPG money the parishes received in 2012 was $197,000. The projected EMPG money for 2013 is $62,000.

Webster Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (POHSEP) received $42,500 in EMPG funds in 2012. The projected EMPG funds for 2013 total $13,500 for the Webster office.
Webster POHSEP Director John Stanley said if the cuts come to fruition, measures from the Webster Parish Police Jury would be necessary.

"Either they will be searching for a way to make up the difference or looking for ways to reduce cost," Stanley said. "We would have to do things differently than we do now."
Davis shared Stanley's thoughts, noting the situation is bleak for local offices if the cuts take effect.

"It will mean a reduction in staff for my offices, without a doubt," Davis said.

An opportunity to secure the funding may be found in the House Appropriations Committee.

"We met last week with the house appropriations committee, during the first meeting of their budget cycle," Davis said. "The state operates off a June fiscal year, so they have until then to approve a budget.

"So at this time, it is not set in stone," he continued. "However, GOHSEP has made the request to keep the $2.1 million dollars or the cuts get passed on to the locals."

Davis said the state plans to keep 80 percent, or $5 million, of the EMPG money for GOHSEP,

"It would go toward operation for GOHSEP," Davis explained. "Salaries and benefits, which is 2.1 million for operations of GOHSEP.

"They have a billion-dollar budget, but most of that is in recovery – money received for recovery situations like Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Isaac," he continued. "They have 54 people that work under that two million figure. That is money they are taking away from locals and keeping for the state."

Davis said more than likely, if the state takes the hit, a reduction in staff at GOHSEP would be seen.

Directors like Stanley and Davis work for entities within their parishes, such as the Webster Parish Police Jury. They are not employees of the state.

"If a state wanted to, they could keep 100 percent of the EMPG," Davis said. "To my knowledge, there is not a state that keeps 100 percent."

If the state of Louisiana keeps 80 percent, it will be at the high end of the portion that other states keep, Davis said.

"Very rarely does a state keep that much," he said. "Some pass all of it through to their counties. The locals are at the mercy of the state, because it is passed through them."

According to Davis, there are no guidelines that direct states to pass a dedicated amount or percentage on to counties or parishes.

 

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