Minden Press-Herald

Sep 30th

Camp Minden funds in legislative limbo


Guaranteed funding for Camp Minden fire protection and prevention was placed in legislative limbo by the Senate Finance Committee.

No committee member would make motion to pass the funding on to a general vote, leaving Camp Minden to try and find necessary funds each year.

State Sen. Robert Adley sponsored Senate Bill 56 to set up Camp Minden Fire Protection Fund, an annual $50,000 allotment. It went before the finance committee on May 2.

"(Camp Minden) is truly a diamond in the rough for the state of Louisiana. They have no fire protection," Adley said during the meeting. "Over the last year or two we have been able to go out and negotiate an agreement with certain fire districts to provide them with fire protection at an annual cost of $50,000."

Camp Minden, a state-owned facility, is not part of any fire district and it cannot levy taxes to pay for its own fire protection. The facility does have a fire station and equipment. Bossier Parish Fire District 1 provides the manpower and additional equipment through annual contract.

According to a Legislative Fiscal Office Fiscal Note, "Currently, the State Fire Marshal has an IAT (interagency transfer) agreement in place that provides for $50,000 from the State Fire Marshal Fund (SFMF) to be sent to the Military Department for these expenditures."

SFMF money comes from a 1 1/4 percent tax on the gross annual receipts from any business that insures property of any nature against loss by fire.

According to State Fire Marshall Butch Browning, the tax generated around $19 million this year, with $14.5 million being allocated. $4.5 million in unallocated funds go to the state general fund.

Adley wanted the transfer to be a statutory requirement of state law. Subject to appropriations, the $50,000 would be paid from SFMF unexpended and unencumbered funds before they revert to the general fund.

"Each year I come here and you go through trying to locate $50,000 to put in the budget for this," Adley said. "This legislation would provide them with that."

"You are persistent Senator," committee vice-chair Sen. Lydia Jackson of Shreveport said. "I certainly agree that this is a needed service but we've been paying this money for the last (approximately six) years. Is it really necessary to create a new statutory dedication to do this?"

"I can't imagine why each year we have to pass a statute or put something into the budget for the $50,000," Adley said. "The funds are there (in SFMF).

"Frankly, at the end of the day, my guess is it'll be in the budget this year, and it will come from those (SFMF) funds," Adley continued. "When we are all gone from here, you and I, we should have done what we should do to protect a facility like that."

"I just hate to see us create another statutory dedication for $50,000," Jackson said.

"The truth is, if we give that dedication we'll do more to ensure the cost does not exceed $50,000 in years to come," Adley said.

Sen. Karen Peterson then expressed concern the statute might create precedent for other fire districts requesting statutory allocation of SFMF funds.

"Certainly, I would anticipate that there would be other fire districts that would be in need as we face this fiscal crisis," she said. "There are many fire districts that may be worthy of some of this $4.5 million."

Adley pointed out the dedication is not to a fire district.

"This is dedicating to Camp Minden (a state owned National Guard facility) allocating annually to certain fire districts for their fire protection," he said.

"All I'm saying to you is as part of your general operation of the state – whether it's this capital building or any other state facility – you pay your utilities. You don't not do that," he continued.

Discussion then continued on the disposition of the $4.5 million surplus, and the specifics of how Camp Minden fire protection works.

Sen. Michot asked for a motion of passage to send the bill on to a general vote. No motion was given.

"I've never been to one of these where there was no motion," Adley said.

"Mr. Chairman, why not suggest we hold onto this one a little while until we get a clear idea of what our revenue pictures look like," Jackson said. "We're not putting this facility in any danger because the money is already budgeted."

"I'll just say this, before this session's over with, you're going to have a budget in front of you with $50,000 for this fire protection," Adley said. "And next year we'll just do it again."






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