Marksville to hold 'last chance' meeting on budget Thursday
Wed, 11/02/2016 - 05:00
Raymond L. Daye
The hammer was cocked, but nobody was willing to pull the trigger last week. Thursday, the trigger has to be pulled.
After receiving a grave list of cutbacks, including layoffs in most departments, at a special meeting on Oct. 25, Mayor John Lemoine asked for a motion to accept the recommended cuts in personnel and expenses.
Although the silence was less than a minute, it seemed much longer.
“Well, we have to do something or just hand the city over to the attorney general and let him handle it,” Lemoine said, breaking the awkward silence.
Councilman Frank Havard said the council should review the recommendations -- especially in personnel cuts -- and consider other options, such as reducing hours to allow the city to avoid some of the recommended layoffs. Councilman Clyde “Danny” Benson agreed, adding, “We should look at everything.”
Several comments were made about “non-essential personnel” being spared while layoffs would occur in areas such as the Police Department.
Lemoine said people ask him why the Sheriff’s Office can handle the entire parish with five detectives but Marksville has seven. He also hears complaints that police do not patrol certain areas.
Those complaints are refuted by police officials.
Benson, who serves as police commissioner on the council, also noted that detectives have been pulling patrol duty due to the loss of some patrol officers.
City Attorney Derrick Whittington proposed a half-a-loaf solution to accept all proposed non-personnel cuts and to review other cost-reduction measures.
City Auditor Aloysia Ducote told the council that the reduction in expenses falls far short of solving the city’s budget problem.
“You will still have to cut personnel,” she said.
$430,000 proposed cuts
The proposals presented at the meeting totaled almost $430,000, with only $170,000 in non-personnel expenses and $260,000 from layoffs. If the city decides not to layoff as many employees, it will have to reach the same amount in personnel cost reductions through other means, such as reducing hours for hourly employees.
Ducote said that $430,000 in cost reductions could get the city through December -- especially if there is an increase in sales taxes due to holiday shopping.
The city will have to come up with ways to increase revenues to avoid an operating deficit that could trigger a state take-over of city operations until the deficit is resolved, she continued.
“Cutting expenses is good, but we need to put money in the bank,” Ducote said. “The city is cash poor at this point.”
Ducote said the city would be able to meet the late October payroll and the mid-November payroll. Current projections indicate the city would be unable to meet the second payroll in November, unless enough cuts are made to alter its financial condition.
The council called one more special meeting, for 3 p.m. on Thursday (Nov. 3).
“Come ready to make a decision,” Ducote said, noting that the city must at least have a plan of action adopted by the end of November to show the state that it is addressing the problem.
If the city can cobble together enough cost reductions and revenue increases to get through 2016, it will have some relief in early 2017 when most of the property taxes are collected.
However, Ducote said a significantly restructured city financial plan must be in place before the end of the budget year and the adoption of the 2016-17 budget.
Although the numbers may change after further review, the proposal presented at the Oct. 25 meeting included $220,965 in cuts to the Police Department, $58,955 in the Street Department, $41,113 in City Hall/General Government, $32,996 in Beautification, $29,855 in Sewer, $25,000 in Engineer, $15,086 in Water and $4,239 in Fire Department.