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Idea of utility franchise fees met with mixed reactions

Posted at 5:50 PM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 20:55:21-04

The Iberia Parish Council will discuss franchise fees during tonight's meeting. The idea of charging fees to utility companies is being met with frustrations from voters, but some believe the fees will benefit the parish.

We spoke with Councilman Paul Landry, who authored the ordinance. He says the franchise fees are an effort to bring in money to the parish, because their main form of income, the royalty fund, has sharply decreased since 2015.

"The royalty fund has $1.1 million in it at the end of December 2021. We have bond payments to pay from previous council at $1.4 million, we'll find $300,000, but at the end of that we have $400,000 coming from our gas fund. We'll be 1 million dollars short."

"The funds that we used to receive when oil and gas was really big here," added Parish President Larry Richard. "We used to receive 5, 6, 7 million dollars, last year we received $300,000.00."

The leaders say the decrease in funds is causing the parish to make cuts.

"Our public works department in '15, I took office in '16, had roughly 62 people. We're down right now to 29," said Richard.

One solution the parish council is discussing is charging the utility companies a franchise fee, something Landry says is already being done in several parishes.

"We do charge Cox, SuddenLink out of Lydia...that brings in about $160,000 a year. Adding the other ones would possibly bring in as much as $560,000, a $400,000 increase. Not anywhere near patching the holes and fixing the budgets, but it is heading somewhere," he said.

Many on social media voiced their concern that the fees will trickle down to them and lead to a fee increase. Richard and Landry said they don't believe the fee would increase bills drastically.

"There is nothing wrong with discussing. I can't say me, or anyone is Iberia Parish, will see a 1, 2, or 3 percent increase on their bill," Richard added.

The council will vote whether or not to pass the franchise fees at its next meeting in September.

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