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Overdue budget center of attention

Written by Emily Bell on . Posted in Local

The Port Allen city council will attempt to pass a 2013-2014 city budget this month, a budget overdue since July 1 of last year.

Former mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter introduced a budget last year on June 12, but that budget met opposition from

some council members due to Slaughter’s admitted lack of conference with the city’s CFO and Slaughter’s proposed, combined $60,000 salary cuts to the CFO and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).

The city thus entered the 2013-2014 fiscal year with no budget and, per state law, was forced to operate on 50 percent of the previous fiscal year’s appropriations.

Slaughter re-introduced a nearly identical budget on Sept. 11, which again met questions and opposition from some council members. On Oct. 9, she agreed that that budget would not include salary cuts to the CFO and CAO.

On Oct. 16, the mayor and council members received copies of an amended budget prepared by the CFO. On Oct. 23, the amended budget passed with Council Members Hugh Riviere, R.J. Loupe and Garry Hubble voting in favor of it, but by Nov. 4 Slaugher vetoed it.

Shortly thereafter, Slaughter was successfully recalled, but she made one last attempt, on Nov. 20, to introduce a budget before she vacated office.

The introduction failed for lack of a second.

The newly proposed 2013-2014 city budget by Interim Mayor Lynn Robertson, prepared in conjunction with the CFO, will include $180,000 for six new police cars, 2.35 percent cost of living increases and the possibility of additional performance-based increases, $375,000 for the first year of a five-year road improvement program and $250,000 for a “large water project” on Mahaffey Road that will improve the city’s class 4 fire rating in the unincorporated areas.

The proposed budget also sets the mayor’s salary at $84,960.46.

The mayor’s salary became an issue under Slaughter’s administration.

In January of last year, Slaughter instructed the city’s payroll clerk to dispense the mayor’s salary at the annual rate of $84,960.46, the rate of previous mayors, despite budget appropriations for a lower salary.

Slaughter failed to get a budget amendment for her salary and any attempts at adopting an ordinance formally setting the mayor’s salary at $84,960.46 failed because they were often coupled with language clarifying who is and isn’t a department head in the city of Port Allen.

During her 11-month administration, Slaughter vetoed any ordinance clarifying department heads -- namely, clarifying the CFO and CAO as department heads. She said that she only viewed the police chief, fire chief and public works director as department heads.

Port Allen city ordinances offer greater job protection to department heads.

The newly proposed 2013-2014 city budget will also include the city’s step/grade pay plan.

CFO Audrey McCain confirmed this is the first time the pay plan is being made a part of the budget.

The pay plan has been in place since at least Aug. 2011 but never made a part of the budget.

The five-page budget message included with the proposed budget also states that increased health insurance costs and increased retirement system costs will require “an enormous portion of the City’s revenue.”

The allocation for police cars became an issue with previous attempted budgets under Slaughter’s administration.

Police Chief Esdron Brown wanted to replace his entire fleet of police cars with a lease-purchase, requiring $150,000 annually for four years, but some council members opposed such a high-cost, long-term commitment when there is no guarantee what sales tax revenues will be in four years.

The current proposed budget allows for six police cars (for a total of $180,000) and six more in six months. The budget message states, “The City Council is prepared to provide funding for an additional six police units in the budget for FY 2014-2015 which begins in approximately six months.”

If the council approves six more cars in six months, that would give Brown 12 of the 18 police cars requested.

Robertson also promised that she will meet with lower-paid employees and their supervisors in consideration of performance-based increases for those employees.

The city council will meet Jan. 8 for their regular meeting and a public hearing on the proposed budget. Robertson said Progressive Waste Solutions will also be present at the meeting to discuss the city’s trash collection services, for which the city is currently losing money.

The budget message states, “The deficit [for trash collection] is currently estimated to be $63,000 for FY 2013-2014.”

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