Higher fees possible for services
PORT ALLEN — While the city’s 2012-13 budget still needs tweaking, officials said one thing appears to be certain: Port Allen will be running a nearly $300,000 deficit, which may lead to residents paying increased fees for some municipal services.
Mayor Roger Bergeron delivered the forecast to the City Council on Wednesday night in presenting his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year during the council’s regular meeting. The 2012-13 budget won’t take effect until July 1.
Bergeron said the proposed $7.7 million spending plan includes a $182,000 increase in projected expenditures, most of them unfunded mandates such as cost increases for employee benefits and new debt service.
Shortly before the meeting, the mayor said the city is facing a more than $40,000 increase in retirement and health benefits and approximately $100,000 in new debt associated with recent upgrades to the municipal sewer plant that were financed with a 20-year loan.
The sewer upgrades cost $1.9 million, he said.
Bergeron said council members will have to entertain adjusting the rates the city charges residents for garbage collection and sewer services because the city is currently not breaking even when it comes to trash pickup.
“It is a deficit situation,” Bergeron said in his office Wednesday afternoon. “We have a $289,000 gap we have to close. We’re going to have to look at how many households are using the service and what type of increase it will take to make up the deficit.”
Bergeron said it costs the city about $476,000 annually to provide trash pickup services to residents. Any increase that officials would most likely consider would be minor, he added.
The mayor told the council his administration used very “conservative” revenue projections, since population data from the 2010 census led to a 10 percent drop in the city’s sales tax revenue.
“We have to see if we’re being too conservative, which might help close that gap,” Bergeron said.
Bergeron told the council he may have to do more “dry shaving” on spending projections before the council votes on the final budget next month.
A public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2012-13 budget will take place in the council chambers on June 13.
Other items taken up by the council included:
PUBLIC WORKS: By a 4-1 vote, the council approved creating a Department of Public Works and hiring a director for the new department.
The director will be tasked with overseeing 23 employees in Port Allen’s Roads & Drainage, Water & Gas, Waste Water Treatment and Fleet Management divisions. The official also would serve as liaison among the divisions’ supervisors and the Mayor’s Office.
Councilman Irvrie Johnson, who cast the single no vote, told the mayor he believed a better way of improving services and communication among officials would be to train employees from “the bottom up” instead of relying on a new department head to address current concerns.
Bergeron said the new job vacancy would be advertised for three consecutive weeks and a potential candidate approved by the City Council. The salary range for the new position is between $50,288 and $82,500 annually.
BAR CLOSING TIMES: The council unanimously agreed to consider a proposed ordinance to amend the city ordinance setting bar closing times. The change would allow owners and employees an hour and a half to restock and clean up at the close of business.
City Attorney Victor Woods said the easiest way to make the change would simply be to add a paragraph to the current ordinance, stating the amended terms, instead of actually changing the entire instrument because it was enacted through public vote.
Police Chief Ken Bates asked the council to consider limiting the number of employees who would be allowed on premises after closing hours to three people, making it easier for officers to police the amended ordinance.