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AAC F A M I L Y & F R I E N D S Levees


trict provides insufficient financial information to the public, has vacancies on its board, or is not conducting its meetings in a central and convenient location. Tis act applies gener- ally to all types of improvement districts, not just to levee districts alone, and it hinges on participation from the pub- lic. In most instances, a county judge or a mayor may not act without members of the public taking the first step.


Audits


Under Act 623, a county judge may order an indepen- dent audit to be conducted of a levee district’s financial situation. First, members of the public have to make a valid FOIA request for financial information from the levee district. If the information from the levee district is substantially insufficient, then at least 10 percent of the property owners in the levee district can submit a petition and an affidavit to the county judge concerning the levee district’s financial affairs and showing that the information is substan- tially insufficient. Upon presentation of the petition and affidavit, the county judge directs the district to comply with the FOIA request for the levee district’s financial data. If within 30 days the levee board does not provide the financial data or responds that no such information exists, the county judge may then order an independent audit. Te levee district is responsible for the cost of the audit.


I Meeting Location


Levee district meetings are required to be held in a central and convenient location in the county where the levee dis- trict is based. If 10 percent or more of the property owners petition the county judge to do so, the county judge shall determine the meeting location.


Vacancy


Act 623 offers two alternative methods of filling vacancies in addition to the process triggered by the reporting require- ments under Act 7 described above. In the event of a vacancy under Act 623, a county judge may appoint a replacement commissioner by petition of the property owners or by act- ing “on his or her own accord.”


Te petition method operates much like the reporting re- 16


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quirements under Act 7. A county judge does not act to fill the vacancy on a levee board until he or she receives a petition by at least 10 percent of the landowners in the levee district alleg- ing that the levee board itself has failed to fill the position. Te method permitting a county judge to appoint some- one to fill a vacancy by acting “on his or her own accord,” is a fall-back provision, and should only be used by a county judge as a last resort. Essentially, if all else fails — for ex- ample, if a county judge knows that there is a vacancy on a levee board and the steps under Act 7 reporting requirements cannot be followed or the landowners do not circulate a peti- tion to fill the vacancy under Act 623 — a county judge may act on his own accord to appoint someone to fill a vacancy on a levee board.


Appointing an Administrator


n the event that all of the positions on the levee board are vacant and no interested prop-


erty owner is willing to serve as a board member, the county judge shall appoint an administrator to act in the place of the board.


In the event that all of the positions on the levee board are vacant and no interested property owner is willing to serve as a board mem- ber, the county judge shall appoint an administra- tor to act in place of the board. Te administrator acts as a substitute for the board until an interested property owner in the levee district steps forward to serve. Tis provision in Act 623 does not require


property owners to act via petition or affidavit before the county judge is required to appoint an administrator.


Funding Another major obstacle levee districts face — even if all the


board members are in place, reports are being filed, meet- ings are being held in a central and convenient location, and so on — is obtaining sufficient funding to maintain the levees within the district. Many of the solutions proposed by USACE for repairing and maintaining failing levees do not come cheap. Levee districts derive funding from assessments on property within the district. Even in large urban levee districts that have a higher population and therefore have a greater number of property owners contributing to the levee district than rural districts, it can be difficult to make ends meet. Grants from the state and federal government are rarely available, and there is often a lack of political will from levee board members to propose raising the cost of the assess- ments on themselves. Funding becomes an even greater issue if some of the prop-


COUNTY LINES, SUMMER 2017


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