Approximately six months after the start of the fiscal year, the city of Port Allen officially has a budget.
The city council unanimously adopted the budget on Jan. 8 and CFO Audrey McCain said Mayor Lynn Robertson signed it into effect on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
The budget allows the city to operate at full capacity, rather than 50 percent of the previous fiscal year’s appropriations when the former mayor and the city council could not agree on a budget.
The budget includes $180,000 for six new police cars, 2.35 percent cost of living increases for all full-time, non-elected employees and the possibility of additional performance-based increases, $375,000 for the first year of a $1.8 million 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, a much-debated figure in Port Allen.
In 2012, former mayor Roger Bergeron proposed lowering the mayor’s salary to $65,000 a year, based on his evaluation of similar-size cities. The city council unanimously adopted the 2012-2013 budget with a lower salary figure.
However, former mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter who succeeded Bergeron rejected the lower salary and continued receiving about $85,000 a year, which exhausted budgeted funds for the mayor’s salary.
At a public hearing on Jan. 8, Resident Castor Brown also expressed concern over the 2.35 percent cost of living increase, where pay raises range anywhere from $500 for the lowest paid employee to $1,900 for the highest paid employee (full-time, non-elected).
Brown said a lot of people will still suffer.
Robertson promised that she will meet with lower-paid employees and their supervisors in consideration of performance-based increases for those employees.
“That option is still out there for the mayor,” Council member Hugh Riviere said. “It’s not written in stone across-the-board for everybody.”
However, Riviere said doesn’t begrudge a higher-paid employee receiving a pay raise. “Everybody comes to work, they deserve a pay raise,” he said.
The mayor, Chief Administrative Officer Adrian Genre, city council members and residents also expressed concern over the city’s trash collection service. Representatives of Progressive Waste Solutions appeared at the city council meeting on Jan. 8 to express their apologies for inconsistent or faulty service and broken lines of communication over the last six months.
There were complaints of crushed garbage cans, garbage cans taken by collection trucks in the course of trash collection, slow to no replacement of garbage cans, trash strewn and missed routes.