Port Allen mayor’s proposed budget faces uncertain future

It’s doubtful Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter’s $9.7 million proposed spending plan for the 2013-14 fiscal year will gain the approval it needs from the Port Allen City Council by July 1.

A majority of the city’s five council members said Friday they wouldn’t support the plan because the mayor did not follow proper protocol when she presented it to them on Wednesday. They also stressed that they are outraged at her budget proposal slashing the salaries of two of the city’s top officials, one of them by as much as $40,000 a year.

“There’s no reasoning behind it,” Councilman Garry Hubble said of the mayor’s move to make deep cuts in the annual salaries of Chief Administrative Officer Adrian Genre and Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain.

Slaughter’s fiscal 2013-14 budget retains her own $84,960 annual pay, but reduces Genre’s salary from $64,867 to $44,867 a year and drops McCain’s pay from $73,034 annually to $33,034 for the upcoming fiscal year.

“It’s a blatant, childish retribution to these employees,” Hubble said.

McCain and Slaughter are locked in an ongoing legal battle regarding Slaughter’s alleged wrongful termination of the CFO in February.

“I haven’t even gone through (the budget) line-by-line because I was somewhat disgusted with the reduction of those two salaries to begin with,” Hubble said.

Hubble, chairman of the council’s Personnel and Finance Committee, said the mayor failed to offer the council any explanation justifying the proposed salary cuts.

Slaughter refused The Advocate’s requests both Thursday and Friday for an interview to discuss her spending plan.

“Don’t tell me the Lawrason Act gives you the right to do it. You can have the right, but you have to give me a reason,” Hubble said of the mayor’s already-controversial budget document.

The Lawrason Act to which Hubble referred is the body of law governing the operation of incorporated municipalities in Louisiana.

“If this sets the tone of what I can expect from the rest of it,” Hubble added, “this councilman will reject it in its entirety.”

Other City Council members agreed with Hubble’s sentiments.

Councilman Brandon Brown called the proposed pay reductions aimed at Genre and McCain, “too drastic.”

Councilman R.J. Loupe said, “I’m not going to put up with that. Until her and Audrey can get together with the department heads, that’s the only budget I will accept.”

Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence on Friday declined to make any comment about the mayor’s budget proposal.

Councilman Hugh “Hootie” Riviere called any discussion about the mayor’s budget plan at this time “premature,” since Slaughter failed to properly introduce the document at Wednesday’s meeting.

Slaughter gave the City Council her budget proposal without discussing it. The mayor announced a public hearing on the budget would be held at 5:30 p.m. on June 26 at City Hall.

According to the Louisiana Local Government Budget Act, Slaughter’s fiscal-year spending plan was supposed to be formally introduced with an appropriation ordinance as well.

“I don’t know when that’s going to happen,” Riviere said. “The ball is in the mayor’s court.”

And that may not be the only stipulation of the state’s Budget Act the mayor disregarded in her proposal.

The Budget Act says the total proposed expenditures of a budget proposal are not supposed to exceed the total projected revenues for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Slaughter budget lists $9.7 million in total projected expenditures for the 2013-14 fiscal year, while total revenues are estimated at $9 million.

The City Council must approve a budget for the new fiscal year budget by July 1. If not, the city will continue to operate on 50 percent of the 2012-13 fiscal year budget for the first six months of the upcoming fiscal year.

The council was presented a 2013-14 budget on May 1 that was prepared by McCain, but Slaughter killed any discussion on it, asserting it had been drawn up without her approval.

“It’s very discourteous to the council members to have this jammed down our throat at the last minute,” Hubble said. “Throughout the history of the city, the CFO has always presented the budget and worked on it cooperatively. It’s ridiculous not to do it any other way.”