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New water tank needed, but lacks funds

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City Clerk gives update on budget workshop progress

As previously reported, the Minden City Council met Thursday for its first budget workshop for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The following day, City Clerk/Treasurer Michael Fluhr spoke with the Press-Herald about the progress made after a day of reviewing line items.

“We made good progress compared to previous years,” he said. “I did [the first workshop] earlier, and I did it a little bit differently than what we did in the past. I wanted to concentrate on the big items and have discussions on those items the most.”

The council was able to shave off more than $4.6 million of the initial $5.5 million budget shortfall Thursday, and the majority of those cuts came from the removal of $4 million allocated to the construction of a water storage tank for the city. Fluhr said the water tank project has been under consideration since 2008.

“The project would raise the capacity of potable water by about 2 million gallons,” he said. “It is very expensive, but for the long run, the city would have to look into the project and build the tank. The issue at the moment is the finances.”
Fluhr emphasized that while the water tank project may not be funded in the next budget, it is not dead.

“Engineering drawings have been done already. Yesterday the council said it would look into finance possibilities, either through grant money or bonds or some type of loan through the Louisiana Rural Water Association, for example.”

Fluhr said Thursday was the first of at least two budget workshops, with a potential third if needed.

“It depends on how it’s working out,” he said. “I’m working on the changes we discussed yesterday. One of the council members said me and the mayor should go back to the drawing board basically and look for further reductions, and that’s what I’ve been doing right now.”

During the workshop, it was noted that some departments had not spent as much as they were allocated in the previous year. Discussion ensued about potentially helping to balance the budget by trimming some allocations based on past usage.

“Some years you use more, some years you don’t use the entire amount allocated,” Fluhr said. “We’re just looking over it again, doing some fine-tuning. Yesterday was the first go-around. Revenue has to be looked over again as well.”

Fluhr said the next step is to make the changes suggested by the council, go over all the figures and recalculate revenue, and then sit down with Mayor Tommy Davis to come up with the next form of the budget to present to the council at the next workshop.

“I cannot guarantee that in the next workshop it’ll be a balanced budget that we present,” he said. “But hopefully it will be. There are still some items where the council did not express a consensus. With the bigger items, the question will become, ‘Is this absolutely necessary?’ That’s the decision at the end when it comes to the nitty gritty part.”

Despite the challenges of balancing a $30 million budget satisfactorily, Fluhr said he believes it will be done.

“I feel comfortable,” he said. “I saw progress yesterday. I’m confident that for the new budget year the city will have a balanced budget.”

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