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Minden City Council begins budget talks

by Minden Press-Herald

Budget talks for the City of Minden’s next fiscal year have begun and department heads have turned in their wish lists.

In the first of several budget workshops Tuesday, department heads met with the city council to discuss their needs and what they say they need for their departments. Mayor Tommy Davis says the numbers presented are still works in progress and will change before the next workshop.

Raises for the police department, fire department and city court were discussed. Davis says a $300 per officer raise was proposed for the police department, but it was taken out because the council felt if one department gets a raise, everyone should get a raise. When the 2016-17 budget comes up for approval in September, a two percent increase for all departments will be up for consideration.

“I can’t guarantee that it will stay in there, but as of today, it’s in there,” he said.

The fire department will get a two percent increase as well, as dictated by the civil service board, Davis said.

City court employees will see a two percent increase in the city’s portion of payment.

“Keep in mind that with the city court employees, we only pay a part of that,” Davis said. “The parish pays some, we pay some and they generate some of their own. Our two percent increase would be less than $1,000 per year.”

Parks and Recreation, utilities and streets were also major topics of discussion.

Again, the council is considering raising fees for city league sports, but only football and baseball, as those are the two most expensive sports. Recreation Director Winky Newer recommended going up by $5 increments, taking a slow approach to raising fees. So, if the numbers stay as he recommended, baseball would go from $20 to $25, football from $30 to $35, and the others would stay the same: basketball at $15, soccer at $15 and swimming lessons would remain at $10.

Another area they are considering is how to update the city’s vehicle fleet. As many of their vehicles age, some of which are 1998 models, discussion centered on a possible lease/purchase agreement with Enterprise Fleet Division. If the council decides to go this route, it will cost the city roughly the same amount as it does now.

“Our average age is 18 years old, and we cannot afford to replace them all at one time,” he said. “On a lease plan, we could purchase new vehicles every year and stay within what our same costs are. We would have to pay for fuel and wear and tear. We’re driving vehicles now that have over 100,000 miles on them.”

For example, if the city has 50 vehicles in its fleet, with fuel and maintenance costs, it would equate to roughly $265,000. In the fiscal year 2016, if they lease 17, while owning 33, the lease would cost about $83,000, with maintenance at $72,000 and fuel a $91,000, the total cost for the year would be $239,000.

The vehicles that are replaced would be put up for auction, he said.

Other areas were discussed such as the airport and the steam plant.

About $1.6 million was cut from the steam plant, which included a wish list for a new computer, a generator, a turbine inspection and a cooling tower replacement.

At the airport, dirt work for a new hangar pad will cost about $35,000. Davis explained there is one plane that will not fit inside any of the current hangars. The city will do the dirt work for the hangar pad in anticipation of building two new hangars, and the plane owner wants to build a hangar to fit their plane.

They’ve also reduced the budgeted amount for gas and diesel from $200,000 to $150,000 largely due to the decrease in fuel sales, Davis said.

Another budget workshop is set for 9 a.m., Tuesday, July 28, at Minden City Hall, located at 520 Broadway St., in the Pelican Conference Room.

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