St. Charles Parish, Louisiana

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Saint Charles Parish, Louisiana is one of sixty-four parishes in Louisiana. A parish, in Louisiana, is the equivalent of a county in other states. The parish seat is Hahnville. In 2000, its population was 48,072.

Website evaluation

See also: Evaluation of Louisiana parish websites

In 2011 St. Charles Parish earned a Sunny Awards for having a perfect website transparency score.

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Budget Y
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Meetings P
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials Y
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Permits, zoning Y
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Audits
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Contracts Y
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Lobbying
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Public records Y
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Local taxes Y
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Transparency grading process


The good

  • Budget
    • The most current budget is listed.[1]
    • Budgets are archived for three years.
  • Administrative officials
    • Department heads are listed for each department.[2]
    • Contact information for administrative officials is provided, including a mailing address, phone number and personalized e-mail.
  • Elected officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and personalized e-mail.[3]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting agendas are archived for one year.[4]
    • A meeting calendar is available and names the times and locations of public meetings.[5]
    • Meeting video is available.
  • Audits
    • The most recent audit is posted.
    • Audits dating back to 2007 are available.[6]
  • Contracts
    • Bids and RFPs are posted online.
    • Approved contract statements are provided for vendors.[7][8]
  • Public records
    • The public information officer is identified. This person provides a mailing address, phone number and personalized e-mail.
    • A public records form is provided.
    • A fee schedule for documents is provided.[9]
  • Taxes
    • Tax revenues are broken down by federal, state and local funding in the budget.
    • Local taxes are available online.[10] There is also a breakdown of other applied taxes.[11]
  • Lobbying
    • The parish discloses that it hires lobbyists and the total amount spent on lobbying.[12]
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning ordinances are posted online.
    • Permit applications can be downloaded on the site, along with information on how to apply for the permits.[13]

The bad

  • Meetings
    • Meeting minutes are not available and meeting agendas are only archived for 2012.

2009 website upgrade

In January 2009, St. Charles Parish officials unveiled a substantial upgrade of the parish website. Renee Allemand Simpson, public information officer for the parish, said, "We've reorganized the site based on what people want to do." Residents are now able to file complaints, download the form needed to speak at a council meeting and get customized e-mail alerts from various departments.

According to The Times-Picayune, more information was also added to the website "partly in response to a review of the parish's old website by the Sunshine Review, a Chicago nonprofit that lobbies for more transparency in government." The parish's budget and other financial information were added to the site in response to an August 2008 review of the websites of Louisiana parishes by Sunshine Review.[14]

The new site was built for $47,000 by Vision Internet, a Santa Monica, Calif., company that specializes in government websites.[14]

Government

St. Charles Parish operates under a home rule charter, which provides for separate legislative and executive branches independent of each other. Legislative matters are handled by an elected nine-member council, while the elected Parish President serves as administrator.[15]

The home rule charter was an option offered to local governments when the state adopted its new constitution in 1974. It was included in the state constitution at the insistence of local officials who felt the need to strengthen local governments throughout the state. Prior to this, the parish operated under the Police Jury System. Under this system jurors were elected from wards or districts. They operated as both legislators and administrators, handling day-to-day operations of the parish. The system was restrictive since parish government could exercise only that authority specifically given them by the state legislature. The home rule charter of St. Charles Parish allows much more flexibility. The parish has the authority to do anything that is not inconsistent with state law. St. Charles Parish adopted its home rule charter in 1978, the second parish in the state to embrace this form of governance. The conversion to home rule was completed in 1980, when the Council and Parish President were installed under the new charter.[15]

The Council is made up of nine members. Seven are elected from districts and two at-large members are elected parish-wide, with one residing on the East Bank of the Mississippi River and one residing on the West Bank of the Mississippi River. The council’s principal function is to enact ordinances or laws. However, the charter also gives them broad additional powers including levying taxes, appropriating funds and fixing penalties for violations of local ordinances.[15]

The daily routine of government is the responsibility of the Parish President, who heads the executive or administrative branch of parish government. The president carries out the policies developed by the council and implements the council’s decisions. He or she has the responsibility for hiring and firing, subject to personnel policies and rules adopted by the council. Department directors are appointed by the Parish President and must be confirmed by a majority vote of the council.[15]

All programs are handled on a parish-wide basis by departments staffed by professionals. The departments include Community Services, Economic Development and Tourism, Emergency Preparedness, Finance, Legal Services, Planning and Zoning, Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Wastewater, and Waterworks.[15]

Parish budget

The operating and capital budget funds for 2011 included revenues and other financing sources of $101 million, plus estimated fund balances carried over from 2010 of $65 million, and expenditures of $145.9 million. Sales tax collections equaled 24% of budgeted revenues, and ad valorem taxes equaled 20% for government funds.[16]

External links

References