Gonzales council votes unanimously to amend budgets

DERON TALLEY, EDITOR @DeRonTalley

The City of Gonzales’ administration and council made their first true step together in 2015. The step is highlighted by two unanimous votes on 2014’s Capital Outlay and General Fund budget amendments. The council voted, Monday, 5-0 to add a total of $234,761 in the Capital Outlay budget for the police department and fire department, and voted 5-0, again, to add $50,000 to the General Fund for the Ascension Economic Development Corporation.

The amendments gave the fire and police departments their original requests made back in March of 2014 of $447,500 for the fire department, and $437,261 for the police department.

Before the vote, Councilman Terance Irvin brought to the council and administration’s attention that the most recent expense revenue report shows the fire department’s Capital Outlay spend was $0 in this budget cycle.

“Since there are only four months left in the budget year (February thru May) and the original budget amount is $323,000, why try to add more money to the budget?” Irvin said, asking the council and mayor. “The Fire Chief has already stated that a two-year replacement plan for the breathing air equipment will meet the needs of the equipment replacement plan.”

Irvin went on to remind the council and mayor that the police department’s Capital Outlay budget is already 10 percent above the approved budget amount from last year.

“With only four month remaining in the budget year, what obstacles keep us managing the Capital spend total to the current budget of $327, 600?” Irvin said, again asking.

“According to the most recent financial audit, the fund balance for the city decreased by $74,959 during last year. According to the most recent financial audit, the city suffered an operating loss of $255, 169 for the year ending May 31, 2014. According to the most recent financial audit, the city has an unfunded actuarial accrued liability of $1,942,981,” Irvin said. “This liability grows each year by about $100,000 per year.”

“If there are additional funds to spend, why not focus on trying to reduce the Unfunded Accrued Liability so we can take care of our employees during their retirement years?” Irvin asked.

Irvin said with only four months remaining in the budget year, which ends on May 31, 2015, there is no reason the council and mayor cannot plan the capital spend and place purchase orders so that some of the invoice payments will be due in the next budget year which begins on June 1, 2015.

Irvin also informed the council and mayor about the battle of the Louisiana Pension Fund.

“As you know the state department’s retirement plan is in a long-term debt that consists of about $19 billion, with $12 billion being teacher’s retirement and about $7 billion in state government,” Irvin said. “This request is asking you to stick with the original budget that has been passed and let’s start leveling off our spending so we can concentrate on either putting money toward our retirement plan or some other long-term investments.”

“I think it is a serious matter and with the cooperation of the department heads to level off spending, like the fire department did prior.”

Councilman Kirk Boudreaux said in response to Irvin’s assertion that the fire department hadn’t spent any money was because there was no budget in place until November.

“They do a good job of watching what they spend so I don’t have any problem giving it to them, especially the police and fire department,” Boudreaux said.

After the meeting, Mayor Barney Arceneaux said it feels wonderful give the police and fire departments, respectively, what they want.

“Number one we knew we had the money there available. Number 2 we think the need is there for the law enforcement agency and the fire department. I always said I would support law enforcement,” Mayor Arceneaux said. “It’s not just that either chief overwhelms me with things, it’s just because we’re here to protect our people. And the best way to protect our people is to get them the best equipment available.”

The mayor said it goes along with giving the AEDC its money as well.

After the meeting, Irvin said it’s important to bring the things he brought up to attention because there are a lot of things “we can start preparing for such as transportation projects and quality of life issues.”

“I would love to see a boys and girls club. I think the entire city is ready for the transportation issues to be addressed,” Irvin said. “But in order to do that Gonzales has to start positioning itself financially to start that process and it consists of accountability, being fiscally responsible in preparation for the future.”

He said over the 14 years of his tenure “that’s what we did.”

“That’s why we have the new police department. The fire department with a second facility that’s highly equipped, this is why you have a water tower in the business district,” Irvin said. “Those investments were made 14 years ago and we did it with writing a check, and were able to do so because we were responsible fiscally in preparation for the future and it’s what we need to do for the next 20 years.”