Still no budget for city
Once again, members of the Crowley City Council once again refused to adopt an operating budget for fiscal 2020-2021.
The fiscal year began Sept. 1 and since there is no budget in place, the city is forced to operate on 50 percent of last year’s budget.
The vote on the recent budget presented during Wednesday night’s council meeting was 5-4 against.
Voting no were Brad Core, Vernon Martin, Sammie Reggie, Kim Stringfellow and Byron Wildridge.
Voting in favor of the budget were Jeff Cavell, Clint Cradeur, Lyle Fogleman and Steven Premeaux.
After the vote, Mayor Tim Monceaux warned that, by not accepting the budget and forcing the city to continue to operate at 50 percent funding, “things will get tight. The city has bills to pay. Things are gonna get real tight.”
When a council member responded, “We are gonna deal with it,” Monceaux commented, “Maybe so.”
Alderman Martin said he feels the budget is inflated and council members “have asked many simple questions and have not received strait answers.”
“I am just making a comment and remember, you voted on it,” Monceaux continued. “There will be some decisions that need to be made and I apologize ahead of time. We have one more month.
“If you have any questions, if you want to discuss anything about the budget, if you want to make adjustments, please feel free to ask me. I will sit with you, I will work with you. I just need you to understand how important it is for the City of Crowley to move forward and pass this budget.”
Citing recent appropriations by the council, Monceaux said, “You are going to sit here tonight and not vote for the budget? That’s hard to understand. You have appropriated monies knowing that you weren’t going to pass the budget to begin with.”
“That’s $200,000 here, $200,000 there and, I apologize if I am making it sound like an accusation, I don’t mean to, I am just saying that we are appropriating all this money and you are going to vote no (to the budget).”
Martin noted the money being appropriated is coming out of dedicated funds but City Clerk Erin Cradeur replied, “It doesn’t matter if the funds are dedicated or not, if the city is only on 50 percent of their budget, the Legislative Auditor has taught us (in classes) that once the city reaches the 50 percent mark, the city shuts down. The 50 percent is not six months, it is whenever the city reaches it.”
She went on to explain that the city has had extraordinarily high expenses due to the hurricanes, causing the budget to advance its spending.
Bickering ensued among numerous council members and the mayor before Martin loudly interjected that council members don’t know the cost of hurricane clean-up because the mayor had not provided that information.
Monceaux explained that he does not have the total figure yet, only “an assumption.”
Wildridge said he didn’t want an assumption and the bickerting resumed..
“You don’t know either Jeff,” said Stringfellow, speaking to Cavell, chairman of the city’s Revenue and Finance Committee. “You think you know.”
Cavell and Monceaux conceded that they did not know exact figures but that “it is very obvious with all these trees down.”
Council members then continued to argue back and forth, sometimes on topics not even related to the budget before the meeting was called back to order.
When asked how much of the 50 percent funding has been expended thus far, Sarah Fontenot, deputy clerk, explain ed currently about 48 percent of the allotted half of last year’s budget.
The city has spent over $2 million in the last 44 days, she said, adding that “at the current spending rate, the city is facing a ‘dead date’ of December 2” if the budget is not adopted. That means government shuts down.
According to Fontenot, the city is spending an average of $50,000 a day and will no longer be able to pay bills after Dec. 2. That includes paying city employees, police, firefighters and various other city workers.
She also informed the council that the estimate to pick up trees and grind and chip the for hurricane Laura is about $273,000 (they are expected to complete the work this week). In addition, the city will soon begin clean-up for trees knocked down during Hurricane Delta and that cost is expected to meet or exceed the cost of the first hurricane.
She noted that once the 50 percent of last year’s budget gets spent, “the city is shut down. Until the governor appoints someone, the city doesn’t move. You can’t not pay people or bills.”
This is the first time in history that the City of Crowley has had to operate on a 50 percent budget.
Wildridge said the council had already voted on the budget and needed to move on to the next subject.