Last Tuesday’s Bossier City Council regular meeting included an unusual agenda item: Council members agreed to appropriate “ …$10,000 from the 2014 General Fund, Fund Balance to retain the services of Travis Morehart, CPA, to analyze the Bossier City Budget for 2015 …”
As a result of this event, this seems a good time for Mayor Lo Walker and the City Council to commit to the City Charter dictated schedule annual budget schedule.
Council member David Montgomery, who recommended the outside review measure, later explained that the city’s proposed 2015 General Fund Budget had been presented to the Council weeks past the City Charter set date of October 15, and that circumstance leaves Council members with little time to analyze the numbers before December 1 – when the budget should be adopted.
According to Montgomery, Morehart’s analysis would look for “any changes of a material nature” from the 2014 budget to the city’s proposed 2015 general fund revenues/ expenditures plan. Montgomery also noted that the analysis “ … will look at the water and sewer fund as well as debt coverage to ensure revenues are sufficient to cover 2015 expenses and those of the future. And he expects that the cost of this work will be far less than the sums appropriated Tuesday.
City Finance Director Joe Buffington agreed that the budget was late in delivery to the Council by City Charter standards. He said that he had the budget prepared, but Mayor Lorenz “Lo” Walker’s request to include a 2.5-percent COLA for city employees, and a 2-percent for public safety employees not covered by state statutes – along with public safety employees who have over 23 years of service caused him to re-work the plan. Additionally, Buffington said that he did not receive health care costs until October 8, and it took time to factor those costs into the budget.
Interestingly, Buffington also noted that last year’s budget was introduced on November 17, 2013 – and adopted on December 13, 2013. That seems to be the trend of the last couple of years, the difference being that through workshops with department heads, the city administration and the Council were able to reconcile any differences and present a basically “joint” General Fund Budget. There have been none of those useful budget workshops this year.
Buffington also indicated that city administrators have agreed that future annual budgets will be drafted by early September – even earlier than the mid-October deadline in the Charter.
Of the delayed budget presentation, Mayor Walker said, “We were late (this year) and last year, too. I accept responsibility for that … but this will be the last year we have this timing problem. It will be presented in a more timely manner and in accordance with the Charter.”
Walker said he had no problem with the outside analysis, and if it identifies any issues, those issues will be addressed.
Commitment to the timely adoption of the city’s General Fund Budget is a welcome reassurance by all involved in the process.
Another important agenda item was also decided at Tuesday’s meeting as the Council adopted a resolution to call a special election on March 28, 2014 for an election on renewing the two property tax millages that fund operations and maintenance of the city’s fire and police departments.
This is an important election; the revenues produced by these millages constitute the funding for Bossier City’s pubic safety departments. Look for more information on just what these taxes pay for in upcoming issues.
Marty Carlson is a columnist for the Bossier Press-Tribune. She may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org