Gonzales mayor faces veto override vote Monday

Monday’s City Council meeting could either end or extend the budget impasse between Mayor Barney Arceneaux and the council, a battle that has already resulted in two vetoes.

If the council overrides the mayor’s latest veto, the matter ends with the council’s budget going into effect. If the override fails, Arceneaux said, he plans to reintroduce the same budget the council cut on the second go-round.

But Arceneaux said he’s not ready to say if he would issue a third veto if the council again cuts his budget.

Those cuts — primarily to the Police Department and an economic development organization — led to Arceneaux’s vetoes in May and on Tuesday.

Arceneaux said he plans to ask the council for the full $437,000, for the Police Department and for $75,000 for the Ascension Economic Development Corporation.

The council previously countered with roughly $100,000 less for the Police Department and $25,000 less for the AEDC.

The mayor said he remains committed to the higher funding levels, despite repeated efforts by three members of the council— Gary Lacombe, Terance Irvin and Timothy Vessel — to cut funding to both entities.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to is in agreement with what I’m doing,” Arceneaux said. “They’re concerned about public safety, and when you’re talking about the Ascension Economic Development Corp., they’ve proven to us over the years that they’ve brought in business.”

Arceneaux said he didn’t speak to Lacombe, Vessel or Irvin, who have formed a majority voting bloc on the five-member council, before he vetoed the budget this week.

“I felt that it just didn’t seem there was any room for compromise,” Arceneaux said. “I think they know where I stand. They could have called.”

Lacombe and Irvin could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Vessel declined to comment.

The five-member council needs four votes to override Arceneaux’s veto. Council member Kirk Boudreaux said Wednesday he fully supports the mayor. Council member Kenny Matassa, who has in the past supported Arceneaux on the budget issues, could not be reached Wednesday night.

If his veto stands, Arceneaux would introduce capital outlay and general fund budgets once again, at the next meeting after that.

And that could start the cycle again, if the council again decides to amend the budget.

There are no limits on how many times a mayor can veto a budget.

Arceneaux said “it’s too early to say” if he would issue a third veto.

“I’m hoping we can get it all worked out,” he said.

Despite the impasse, city operations are not yet greatly affected, City Clerk Clay Stafford said, with the city moving forward with a budget half the size of the previous year’s, as required by state law in these circumstances.

Last fiscal year’s general fund budget was $13.6 million, so the city can now spend half of that, $6.8 million, without a new budget in place. Since June, the city has spent $2.5 million of that, Stafford said.

The city’s capital outlay budget last year was $7.4 million, so the city can spend $3.7 million of that. Since June, the city has spent $275,000 of that.

“We’re being very careful,” Stafford said.