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City financial advisor Steve Moosa, CPA, right, talks about the Eunice budget Tuesday. (Photo by Harlan Kirgan)

Budget bomb fizzles

What promised to be an explosive meeting on the Eunice budget passed quietly, but the controversy promises to continue.
The city’s budget for fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, passed the Board of Alderman with comment coming only from Mayor Scott Fontenot.
Police Chief Randy Fontenot had questioned the budget after it was tabled in June with aldermen citing concerns over police department overtime.
“I’m at your mercy with the budget. I have to work with the budget you give me, but all these decisions are being made. Nobody is contacting me to talk to me about what is going on with it.,” the police chief said after a meeting on July 3 to set the agenda for Tuesday’s session.
At that time the police chief said he had not seen the budget.
Wednesday morning the police chief said he is concerned about how to handle overtime in his department.
Underlying the concern is the budget does not address how the city will handle pay raises approved for the fire and police departments with a 0.25 percent sales tax.
The revenue shows up in the budget, but is not shown on the expense side of the budget. There is no note about the expense.
City financial advisor Steve Moosa, CPA, said the raise is not reflected on the expenses because the pay has not been calculated.
The new sales tax will not be collected until October and the city will not receive money until December, he said.
That’s due to the parish sales tax office procedures, he said.
The mayor also defended his budget procedure. “This budget is prepared every year in the same ... since I’ve been on the council. This is my ninth year. When I was on the council the mayor would meet with Mr. Moosa. Council members would go in as pairs and we would talk and if we had any suggestions to the budget it was presented to the council. The mayor has the final authority and final say so on the budget that’s proposed,” he said.
The mayor said the budget is open for public inspection 15 days prior to the beginning of the fiscal year.
“Everybody has the same opportunity to come and express their concerns,” he said.
Fontenot’s budget message follows.
I submit to you the proposed budget for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2020. This budget document includes anticipated revenues and expenditures of the General Fund, Special Revenue Funds and the Utility Fund. Items of note are as follows:
* Revenues, excluding grants and interfund transfers, are budgeted at $11.9 million, an increase of approximately $500,000 which is attributable to the additional one-quarter cent sales tax to effective July 1, 2019 with the first monthly deposit expected during September 2019.
* Total revenues of the City is comprised of sales tax ($5.8 million), gas & sewer collections ($2.6 million), property tax ($0.75 million), franchise tax ($0.78 million), intergovernmental ($0.75 million), and other ($1.5 million).
* Expenditures, excluding grants and interfund transfers, are budgeted to increase 3% from the prior year budget. The increase is primarily attributable to additional funding for capital outlay ($0.25 million and operating expenditures ($0.10 million).
* Salaries and employee benefits (retirement and health insurance) total $5.65 million, representing 47.5 % of the total budgeted expenditures.
* The budget includes $2.4 million for capital outlay, including police ($90,000), fire ($130,000), airport ($300,000), buildings ($350,000), recreation and community centers ($20,000), drainage ($ 100,000) street overlay ($500,000), wastewater and gas ($65,000) and other ($229,000).

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