Mandeville council, mayor at odds over budget

Members of the Mandeville City Council and Mayor Donald Villere sparred Thursday night over several items in the city’s proposed budget for next year.

During the second of several scheduled budget workshops scheduled for this month and next, members questioned whether specific line items in the proposed budget were a good use of the city’s money.

Four of the city’s five council members are in their first term, and the next budget, which runs from Sept. 1 until Aug. 31, 2014, is the second they have been asked to consider.

The Council was empaneled just one week before getting the budget last year, and at least two members have said this year’s proposed budget would get a closer look before approval.

Debate flared over a proposed $9,000 expenditure for a second speed trailer.

“We are a very small town,” Councilman Ernest A. Burguières said. “We don’t need a second one.”

Villere countered by saying that one of the biggest complaints to his office was speeding.

“Do you log these complaints?” Burguières asked.

“I don’t keep track of every call,” Villere said.

“Then it’s anecdotal and essentially useless,” Burguières said. “We are spending an awful lot of money and I would like to see it stop,” he said.

Burguieres also questioned whether city employees automatically receive 2.5 percent raises every year. Villere told him employees do get raises as part of civil service step increases.

Mayor Pro-tem Clay Madden also quizzed Villere and Department of Public Works Director David deGeneres about a proposed $255,000 allocated for a metal covering at a DPW facility. Councilman-at-large Rick Danielson questioned Villere about road improvements.

Villere said after the workshop that budget discussions have gotten more adversarial with the new council members.

With previous councils “there was a lot more communication,” Villere said.

Villere said his office had provided the budget to the council members on June 28.

“I didn’t get any of these questions until now,” he said. “We have made numerous attempts to make changes to satisfy this council.”

The budget — which projects revenue of $20.6 million and expenditures of $19.5 million in its general governmental fund — was formally introduced at Thursday’s full council meeting. It will be voted on at the council’s second meeting in August.