Bay eyes budget changes
By Cassandra Favre
Mar 17, 2017, 17:59
The Bay St. Louis City Council on Monday hosted a workshop to discuss budget amendments and recommendations for balancing the budget.
City Clerk Sissy Gonzales said, that with some suggested changes she made, she was able to bring the deficit down to $239,000.
Gonzales said part of that savings included more than $200,000 in payroll savings through February. That was due to positions not being filled in public works and the police department, she said.
Councilman Lonnie Falgout said the police department is not running full shifts.
"From the notes that I've taken," he said, "from the individuals that have left, transferred and right now my calculation is that we're six people short."
During the past few budget years, the council has added two extra police officer positions per year.
"When you don't have police on the street, that's not a savings, that's a risk," Falgout said.
Falgout referenced the last three payrolls and said there are no reserve officers being used.
He said the council needs to mandate that the administration fill the positions and get the police department staffed.
"It's not about saving dollars, it's about saving lives," he said.
Falgout said, by his calculation, there are four un-filled positions in public works.
Gonzales said the payroll savings are existing savings to-date and not future.
"We haven't pulled those positions out of anywhere," she said.
The council discussed the budget by each line item.
With regards to expenses, Gonzales said the council set up a temporary increase category under line-item council department in the amount of $40,000. She took it out of the council budget and put it in the departments it would affect, which could result in some savings, she said.
Gonzales also suggested the council could eliminate the dedicated $47,000 transfer from general fund to the municipal reserve fund. It's how the council originally budgeted that number, she said.
Councilman Mike Favre said he would like to see that money still go to the reserve fund.
The council also discussed the city's legal fees.
Gonzales said she spoke with city attorney Trent Favre, who said that he could forecast somewhere around $10,000 to $11,000 for the next seven months. She said Mayor Les Fillingame would like to see that number closer to $5,000 or $6,000.
Councilman Joey Boudin said the council needs to "quit utilizing him for every little thing."
Boudin said the council needs to look at what services the city's retainer pays for.
Favre asked Gonzales to make separate line items for services relating to retainer and litigation.
Falgout said the city does have a "lot of litigation going on."
The council increased the legal line item to $108,000.
Falgout said "he (Trent Favre) inherited it and there ain't nothing we can do about it."
In the police department, Gonzales said, about $62,000 has been saved.
Falgout said the fuel expenses in the police department are running at about 63 percent now.
The council agreed to add $14,000 to the line item.
In the public works department, Gonzales said there has been $65,000 in payroll savings.
Gonzales told the council had decided to take street and drainage materials out of the budget in September. Those were moved to the road and bridge fund. But the road and bridge excess cash was used towards the bond, she said.
Favre said "they are going to need money in there."
The council added $25,000 for materials, which it could transfer from the reserve fund, Favre said.
According to the council, the total amount of the budget's shortfall is $300,780.
Seal said the "$299,000 is where we are, I mean, we're $1,078 over budget if you take that $299,000 out."
"Besides laying people off and shutting the city down, $299,000 is gonna be a big swing," he said. "There's not fat in the budget or big project we say we don't need this year."
Favre said the city always borrows instead of cutting.
"If a decision's gotta be made to cut personnel, it's got to be made," Favre said. "I don't think it's right to leave the next council in the hole like we came in four years ago."
Falgout said if the city didn't have to pay for an error that occurred in 2011, "the citizens would be fine and we would only be $1,000 in the hole."
Seal said one of the other savings he could see would be about $149,000 in insurance savings. New hires don't receive insurance benefits for the first three months of employment, he said.
The next council meeting is scheduled for March 21 at 5:30 p.m.