CATS, other EBR agencies take out loans to make ends meet after flood

EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - In the aftermath of the August 2016 flood, some East Baton Rouge agencies and departments are being forced to take out loans to make ends meet.

Property tax deadlines were extended in East Baton Rouge Parish after the flood, meaning that agencies do not have immediate access to that cash. For instance, the State Bond Commission approved a loan of up to $5 million to help keep the Capitol Area Transit System (CATS) afloat until the property tax dollars start coming in.

"We may not use all of that, we may not use any of that," said Jim Brandt, the chair of the CATS board. "We don't have deep reserves; we have about a $3 million reserve fund which we used for the month of January."

It costs about $2.5 million per month to run CATS. Without that funding, the bus line would not have funding to pay for repairs or driver salaries. Bus services could be at risk.

"We would have then asked our creditors to ask to delay the payment of some of our current bills, we may have had to cut back on services temporarily until we were able to fully staff the operation," Brandt said.

CATS is not alone in this struggle. BREC Parks had to take out a loan of up to $6 million to make ends meet in the coming weeks. The St. George Fire Department also took out a loan of $3.5 million. Other agencies however, such as EBR Parish Libraries, had enough money to fall back on until tax collections resume and thus did not need a loan.

Agencies that did take out loans will be able to start paying that money back once property taxes start coming in through the next few months.

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