State praises city for fiscal strength

Published 7:00 am Friday, March 25, 2016

Bogalusa city leaders got some praise from the state’s treasury office last week after Mayor Wendy Perrette asked for an annual loan far lower than last year’s request.

The loan is known technically as a Revenue Anticipation Note, and for years, Bogalusa has depended on the short-term state loans to cover the city budget until tax revenues come in. Typically those loans from the State Bond Commission have been over $1 million dollars, and sometimes in excess of $2 million.

In the prior budget year, the city needed only $700,000 — less than half the money it could have secured from the state. This month, the city paid that loan back, and Perrette explained the city needed less money because it had more revenue coming in and it cut costs in some areas.

State Treasurer John Kennedy praised city leadership for doing a better job of staying within budget.

“From 2000 to 2015, the city of Bogalusa has requested approval of budgetary loans each year ranging from a low of $1,272,580 in 2000 to a high of $2,242,490 in 2009,” Kennedy said. “In 2015, the city of Bogalusa received State Bond Commission approval of a budgetary loan in the amount of $1,990,000; however, only $700,000 was actually drawn by the city, which was later paid in full. The city’s 2016 request is a 51 percent decrease, or $1,040,000 less, as compared to the 2015 request. It appears that the city is taking steps to eliminate operating deficits and live within its means.”

In January, the city’s board approved a resolution to ask for $950,000 from the state bond commission. The resolution is itself not a loan, but a request for a loan up to that amount in the future, if the city needs the money. If the city does request a loan, that loan will have to be paid back by March of next year.

The mayor said most of the cuts were probably not noticed.

“We made sacrifices without cutting services,” Perrette said. “We haven’t been spending vigorously and we’ve been living within our means just like you do within your household.”

However, one cut citizens may have noted was the dissolution of the city’s downtown development office. Perrette said the office was focused on a relatively small part of city development, and the focus was too small to be economically sustainable.

“It was a great program, but we were able to unable to continue it,” she said. “It was not sustainable, not for the price we were spending.”

The program cost $85,000.

The city also stopped paying for free wireless Internet in Cassidy Park.

“I know some people may have been upset with our cutting it, but people can go to McDonald’s or the library for free wi-fi,” she said. “We’ve had to cut back on some luxuries.”

In addition to the cuts, Perrette said the city’s water system was profitable last year and sales tax revenues were up.

“It is important to shop locally,” she said.

The mayor said her goal in the future is to stop borrowing state money altogether.

“Our goal is to not have to go back before them,” she said. “Our goal is to be able to sustain ourselves without having to ask for these monies.”