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City works to mitigate budget shortfall

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City Council holds first 2018-19 budget workshop

Facing a projected $5.5 million budget shortfall, the Minden City Council conducted its first budget workshop for the 2018-19 fiscal year Thursday.

The majority of the meeting, which lasted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., was spent addressing each department’s “wishlist” and debating what the city can afford. Many department heads were brought in to update the council on their current status and needs.

By far the largest cut agreed upon during the workshop was to a proposed $4 million groundwater facility project.

With this and other smaller cuts, the council was able to whittle the deficit down from $5.5 million to roughly $855,000.

A proposed $250,000 expense to replace the city’s administration software was deemed necessary by the council after they learned that the current software, provided by SunGard, caused “severe credit card issues.” These issues included one customer’s transaction being charged to the previous customer’s credit card, as well as online transactions potentially double charging.

In order to begin closing a nearly $40,000 gap between revenue and expenses in the recreation department’s programs, the council agreed to raise registration fees for several sports.

Pending official approval in a city council meeting, the registration fees for basketball will rise from $10 to $15, football from $30 to $40, baseball/softball from $20 to $30, and soccer from $20 to $30 as well. Swimming lesson fees will remain unchanged. If attendance remains constant, the council estimated these increases will produce $14,000 of additional revenue.

City Clerk/Treasurer Michael Fluhr presented a proposal to increase revenue put together by Facilities Director Steve Wilson, a plan that would have raised rates for leasing out facilities such as the Civic Center.

The plan met resistance from some council members who feared the new rates would be too high for many citizens.

“If we want to exclude a group, let’s just say that, because that’s what this is going to do,” Councilman Wayne Edwards said.

In the end, the proposal was tabled for further discussion at a later workshop, and it was far from the only item to be delayed.

In the closing hours of the workshop, the council addressed various topics regarding city personnel. Money for unfilled positions such as a human resources manager, foremans, and a public works director was left in the budget.

The proposed budget, presented to the council by Fluhr and Mayor Tommy Davis, would have given elected part-time employees like the council members the choice between a pay raise and health insurance, which the council has not had up until now. However, the council did not approve of this item.

“I think I speak for all of us when I say we’re not in it for the money,” Councilman Vincen Bradford said.

The proposed budget would also increase the mayor’s salary for the first time since 2011, moving it from $72,000 to $84,000. This raise would take effect after Mayor Davis, who is not running for reelection, would be out of office.

The mayor raise and a raise for the Chief of Police were both discussed at length and eventually tabled for the next workshop.

The 2018-19 budget in its current form also removes the usual 2% longevity raise for city employees who have worked for the city a set number of years. Even so, between salaries, insurance, benefits, and more, personnel costs stand at over $12 million.

Members said this was the earliest in a year they can ever remember meeting for a budget workshop. The council will meet twice more throughout the year before finalizing the budget.

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