13 city employees lose their jobs

Published 7:57 pm Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thirteen city employees are being laid off after it was discovered Bogalusa had a shortfall of more than a half million dollars in 2013.

A week after financial discrepancies were discovered during Bogalusa’s final audit of 2013, Mayor Charles Mizell said the shortfall between the amounts budgeted and the expenditures for the year are $635,000.

No information on what positions were cut was available from Mizell at press time Thursday afternoon, and he declined to say whether or not any police officers or firefighters were among cut from the payroll. He said he wanted to inform those affected before publicly announcing the eliminated positions.

He said the cutbacks include more than the 13 salaries.

“We are eliminating a significant amount of overtime as well,” he said. “Going forward, we will continue to do what we need to do to provide service to our citizens and make steady progress in our city.

“We are continuing to evaluate all areas of the operation of the city to identify cost savings, revenue enhancements and more effective methods of providing services.”

Mizell read a prepared statement during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“We have been at a significant disadvantage because of the failure of our financial accounting system in May,” he said. “We now have some numbers, and we have been working feverishly to understand and verify these figures.”

Mizell later said he could only make decisions based on the information he had before him, and that he had none from May through September 2013.

Over the previous week, he said, the administration and department heads worked together to identify areas where significant reductions could be made that would have a positive effect on the bottom line and little impact on services.

“We’ve already taken steps for a $759,000 reduction in this year’s budget,” Mizell said.

Mizell said the city’s new accounting system enables all department heads to understand their current status and to take corrective action at the first sign of overspending.

He pointed to the recent receipt of a fish kill settlement check from International Paper and said that funding will be used to clear lots that are believed to contain asbestos, and that the city will continue to progress, despite the current financial setback.

“We have made some significant investments in our city and in our parks, and I believe you will agree with me that we are moving in a positive direction,” Mizell said. “We will be vigilant going forward and work to identify other cost reductions and revenue enhancements.”