Marksville trims $580,000 from budget

Lays off seven, imposes unpaid furloughs, more cuts may be neededs


   Faced with a deficit of $50-60,000 a month, the Marksville City Council decided to “spread out the pain” as much as possible at its special meeting Nov. 3, but still had to lay off seven employees to reach the “magic number” to address its budget crisis.
   The three-pronged plan to avoid a budget deficit, and possibly the appointment of a state administrator to resolve the problem, will apparently get the city through the 2016-17 budget year.
   However, city auditor Aloysia Ducote said the council may be faced with imposing more layoffs in March if the proposed cost reductions don’t bring the city’s finances in line with its revenue.
  The council approved just over $160,000 a year ($13,300  monthly) in non-personnel cuts at a special meeting Oct. 25 -- including de-funding the city’s contribution to the Hypolite Bordelon House operations.
  The second part of the plan was to require all employees to take at least one day of unpaid furlough each month. Some departments’ employees will have two unpaid days off. This proposal will save almost $200,000 a year ($16,500 a month).
Needs $600,000 in cuts
  When council members paused after approving the furlough proposal, Ducote pointed out that the city would need a minimum of $600,000 a year in cuts ($50,000 per month) on the table to have a realistic chance of avoiding a budget deficit for this fiscal year.
  Mayor John Lemoine then pulled out the “last resort” list of 19 employees that would be targeted for layoffs. If all 19 had been laid off, it would have resulted in $590,118 in reduced salaries and benefits.
  After discussing the issue for several minutes, seven of the 19 were laid off while the other 12 were spared. The cuts will save about $220,000 a year ($18,300 a month).
  “I know these people,” Lemoine said. “This is not easy to do.”
  The council voted 5-1 to approve the layoffs. In Marksville’s city charter form of government, the mayor is a voting member of the council.
  Councilman Mike Gremillion cast the only “nay” vote. He noted that he realizes the need for layoffs, but disagrees with some of the employees that were selected to be laid off.
  “There are some on this list that are more essential than others that were not laid off,” Gremillion said.
  Lemoine said the council could debate definitions of “essential” and “non-essential,” and each official would have a different definition. Such a discussion would not resolve the problem, he noted.
Seven laid off
  Those laid off include four Marksville Police Department officers -- Assistant Chief Bryan Bernard and detectives Lawrence Bordelon, Rickey Powell and Jason Brouillette. Lemoine noted at a recent meeting that there have been comments that Marksville had too many detectives for a city its size.
   Those laid off also include City Hall employee Jean Jacobs and Street Department employees Terrel Dupuy and Sylvain Dorsey.
   Bordelon addressed the council, noting that he had worked for the city for 40 years and he felt like he had thrown away 40 years of his life.
   “It’s not right,” he said.
   The three reduction proposals only reached $580,000 (just over $48,000 a month), a little short of the minimum “magic number” Ducote said she had hoped would result from the special meeting.
   Lemoine and the five councilmen all publicly proclaimed that they would voluntarily donate $50 of their monthly $500 stipend back to the city. That would add $300 a month or $3,600 a year.
That would put the monthly savings at almost $48,500 -- just $1,500 short of the minimum target and $11,500 short of the maximum potential monthly deficit.
   Lemoine said all of the city departments will be asked to review their budgets again, in hopes of coming up with another $15,000 to $20,000 in annual non-personnel cuts.
   In addition, the city will tighten its operations in the Water Department and begin disconnecting customers who are 30 days overdue on paying their bills.
   If necessary, the council will revisit the possibility of additional layoffs.