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Minden’s budget topic of workshop

by Minden Press-Herald

The Minden City Council and city department heads continued to hash out the numbers in the second of two budget workshops Thursday.

Mayor Tommy Davis says they are projecting roughly $30 million in revenue with a 1.3 percent increase.

“And to balance it we’re going to need about $750,000 in reserves,” he said.

In the workshop, discussion centered on proposed cuts in every department, where they looked at possibly shaving some things from departments.
“When we meet next time, the council is going to come back with some recommendations,” he said.

They are still looking into offsetting the increase in costs such as retirement and health benefits. Also, departments are asking for raises for the employees. A two percent, across the board, raise was discussed; however, no final decision on raises will be made until the council passes their budget in September.

Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper asked for a raise for his officers as well as new cars for his department. One will have to be replaced following the car crash that left one patrol unit totaled.

Cropper says all departments with the city are important, but he’s also facing officers that may be willing to walk out the door if they don’t get a raise.

“I’ve got five or six good officers that are just waiting to see what the city is going to do,” he said.

Many of them could go anywhere and work, he says, but they love Webster Parish.

“It’s just gotten to the point where they just can’t survive,” Cropper said. “Minden has one of the lowest crime rates in this state. I have officers that are proactive; they look for drugs on the streets, they look for people breaking into vehicles, they look for people breaking into houses.”

He fears if they can’t give these officers raises, then they will end up with officers no other department wants.

“I’m not saying these other departments aren’t important, but if you want good public safety, you’re going to have to pay for good public safety,” he said.

Fire Chief Kip Mourad also talked about his department, saying those under 20 years of service receive a two percent longevity raise, and that’s all some have to hold on to. The fire department, set by the civil service board, gets a mandatory two percent longevity raise whether the city decides to give raises or not.

For instance, if the city decided to give an across the board raise, the fire department would receive their raise plus two percent.

“We stay here because we like Minden,” he said. “I chose to be here, but if you cut the two percent, that’s all some of these employees are holding on to – the only benefit. My retirement is met, some of the others are met. Some of the guys are holding on to it because they don’t want to go anywhere. I’ll fight for that two percent until my last breath.”

Councilman Bennie Gray says if there is any way possible, he’d like to see a two percent raise across the board. Councilman Mike Toland says he feels they should be able to come up with the two percent, adding he wants to study the options given to them.
Davis says there are some fee increases added into the coming year’s proposed budget as well. They are looking at raising rates on sewer and sanitation fees.

“That’s not been done yet, but it’s what we’re looking at,” he said.

Recreation fees may be going up as well. A long discussion centered on what the recreation center pays for, like upkeep of all the city’s parks and the center, and what the fees cover.

Rec Center director Winky Newer says the fees parents pay for their children to play sports don’t cover all it takes to provide sports activities.

He says a fee increase would help.

The next regular council meeting will be Monday, August 3.

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