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Mayor talks budget, road work, pay raises

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The Minden City Council drew close to a final balanced budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year Tuesday morning after starting in May with a $5 million shortfall. Yesterday, Mayor Tommy Davis provided additional information for a few of the items discussed.

One such item was road work. Davis said next year the $500,000 allocated for road overlays will be funded differently.

“On everyone’s utility bill now there is already a $3 infrastructure fee,” he said. “We’re taking basically a year’s worth of that, $240,000, to put into the road work.”

Davis said the priority project for those funds is located on Longleaf Drive and Woodard Drive, connected by Post Oak Lane.

“That’s a street that was taken in from the parish when we annexed that in,” he said. “It wasn’t built to our standards, so we’re going to go back and redo that. We already did some testing, and the engineers tell us the base is the problem.”

Patches put in across the city are usually temporary measures rather than true fixes, as the road base is often the real problem, Davis said.

“This project next year is to get in there and fix the base,” he said. “It’ll probably take most of the funds to do that. If there’s money left over, we’ll spend it in other places.”

The June 1 and June 27 editions of the Press-Herald have detailed many of the cuts discussed at the council’s two budget workshops in order to make a balanced budget. A few increases did survive, however, including pay raises for the mayor, chief of police, and city council members.

Davis, who will be out of office before these raises take effect, explained the idea behind the increases.

“Our employees have gotten a 2 percent raise every year for the last several years,” he said. “So we’ve just taken the mayor’s salary from 2011, which was the last time it was changed, and added 2 percent a year to bring it up to what it is. Same thing for the police chief.”

Council members, meanwhile, will see their pay increase from $10,800 a year to $12,600.

“Raises for council members have not been done in a number of years,” Davis said. “I came on the council in 2007, and that’s what it was then. They do have expenses. In the past we’ve given them $100 a month car allowance. If they go to one meeting out of town, that’s it.”

By the end of the workshop, there was only one item that had not been finalized: about $50,000 in economic development funds related to a potential fiber optics consultant.

As reported yesterday, the council asked Economic Development Director James Graham to explain the necessity for these funds. Graham had not been notified beforehand, and after much discussion, the council agreed to hold another workshop to hear more on this item and make a decision.

“We’re going to have one more workshop on that,” Davis said. “Mr. Graham is going to gather more information so he can present his case. I don’t think we heard the full story yesterday, so we want to make sure we’re making a good decision. From that, I think the rest of the budget is pretty well set in place.”

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