Denham Springs adopts standstill budget, sets public hearing on property taxes

The City Council adopted a standstill budget Tuesday for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.

The $10.9 million general fund budget assumes stable revenue, including a projected $7.1 million in sales tax collections, Mayor Jimmy Durbin’s budget message states.

Increased police patrols are expected to generate more fines, projected at $800,000, according to the budget message.

Total general fund expenditures are expected to increase 4.4 percent to $10.8 million.

The city does not anticipate giving employees a cost-of-living raise during the 2014-15 fiscal year, Durbin said. The last such raise was Jan. 1.

The city also does not anticipate adding new personnel, although several departments may need additional workers, the mayor said.

Health insurance premiums will take a bigger bite of the budget, increasing by about $80, or 16.3 percent, for each participating employee. City officials expect more employees to participate due to the Affordable Care Act, Durbin said.

The city’s retirement contributions for employees and firefighters also will increase for a combined additional expense of about $60,000. Contributions to the Municipal Police Employees Retirement System will remain at 31 percent, he said.

Durbin said he is committed to maintaining the city’s fire rating at 2 and will budget resources to replace old fire hydrants and improve water flow.

The city’s capital outlay fund budget includes about $500,000 in projects, including an overlay of River Road between Centerville and Government streets, widening and overlay of Maple Street and Julia Street, and drainage repairs along Florida Street.

In other business, the council agreed to roll forward and set for public hearing on July 28 the proposed property tax millage rate for 2014.

The city’s current rate of 3.604 mills brought in $296,973 in 2013 and, without a roll-forward, would bring in an estimated $306,775 in 2014 due to increased property values, city attorney Paeton Burkett said.

Rolling forward to the maximum of 3.725 mills would bring in $317,075, Burkett said.

Durbin said that $20,000 increase is no small sum for a growing city.

He said property owners would pay an average increase of about $1.75 annually if the rate is rolled forward.

“From my point of view, I support a roll forward, not leaving it as is,” Durbin said.

Councilman John Wascom was the lone vote against rolling forward the millage rate.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter @HeidiRKinchen.