Marksville eyes more cuts; layoffs possible

It’s not over.
   Marksville’s budget is still about $135,000 “overweight,” which will require trimming over $11,000 from monthly expenses.
   “The last thing we want to do is lay off more employees,” Mayor John Lemoine said. If additional expenses cannot be cut, or revenues don’t increase to cover the deficit, that “last thing” may be done later this month.
   Lemoine grasped at the holiday sales straw, asking Secretary/Treasurer Heather Bordelon if the anticipated sales taxes from Christmas shoppers could get the city through the rest of the budget year. Bordelon crushed that straw by saying, “You won’t see that money until February.”
Overtime & "K time"
   Councilman Clyde “Danny” Benson said a decision to cut out all overtime could save enough money to avoid additional layoffs.
   The discussion of overtime soon focused on the Water and Sewer Department employees. Utility Supervisor Phil Marcotte and City Manager Tommy Garrot argued that eliminating overtime in that department, combined with two days of unpaid furlough each month amounts to a 35-percent pay cut for those employees.
    Lemoine questioned that and asked for documentation for further study.
    There is always one sewer worker “on call” for four hours after the work day ends. Lemoine said the city cannot afford to pay an employee “to sit at home.” 
    Marcotte said the on-call employee also inspects the sewer pumps during that time, so “they aren’t just sitting at home.”
    Lemoine said employees should be compensated for being required to be near the phone in the event of an emergency. He said the city will “pay” the employee in “comp time,” also called “K time,” for those on-call hours. 
    “K time” is paid time off given in lieu of overtime pay. Lemoine said that if the employee is called out to work on a problem, he will be paid overtime for the hours he works on the issue.
   Benson commented that employees should receive comp time for all overtime.
   “You can’t spend ‘K time,’” Councilman Frank Havard remarked. “You can’t pay your bills with K time.”
   Havard and Councilman Mike Gremillion told Marcotte that “if your employee gets called out, he will get paid.”
   Marcotte pointed out that while eliminating overtime pay would result in the city reducing its monthly expenditures, accumulated K time brings its own kind of problems. 
   When employees take off to use up the paid time off, it can leave the department short-handed. That, in turn, can result in the employees who are at work that day having to work longer to get necessary work done. That results in those employees working overtime.
    Lemoine said department heads and council members will review the city’s finances over the next few days to determine any options to close the looming deficit. If that does not happen, he said the City Council will call a special meeting to lay off four or five more employees. 
    In another matter, Bordelon reported that the city’s sales tax check for October was up .3 percent from September and 6.8 percent higher than October 2015. She said after the meeting the sales tax check for November 1 is up 3.9 percent from October and 5.2 percent higher than November 2015. However, she would not say the two good monthly reports are evidence of an economic turnaround.