Battle over Bogalusa budget continues

Published 1:27 pm Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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The Bogalusa City Council met Tuesday night, and in a surprise turn of events passed a spending freeze for the city until a workable budget is presented to them.

Citizens on both sides of the debate turned out to speak their minds and challenge the city’s government officials on the details of the proposed 2024 operating budget. After Councilwoman Gloria Kates moved to enact the freeze, the meeting became heated. Some citizens applauded the Council for stopping what they view as an incomplete and incompetent budget, while others lambasted council members for standing in the way of the city’s need to move forward on the issue.

The city council has met twice in the last two weeks to discuss the budget with constituents and provide as many details as possible but was ultimately unable to find a solution that satisfied both legal requirements and the mayor’s progressive financial plan for the city.

During the meeting, Kates asserted that the council has a fiduciary responsibility to its constituents to pass a balanced budget, and cited the city and state statutes upon which her motion to freeze the budget was based. The freeze will be in effect until a balanced budget is in place to secure revenue, pay bills, and increase the city’s surplus. Kates said, “At this point, we don’t know if we’re exceeding total expenditures or if we’re under those expenditures, and until we get a controlled number, we won’t know.”

Mayor Tyrin Truong said, “We just had a great meeting on the budget last week, and I’m struggling to see the necessity of a spending freeze.”

Many citizens were unhappy with what they viewed as a blatant attempt by the city council to tie the hands of the mayor’s administration and take control of the city. They voiced these opinions passionately and even went as far as accusing the council of a conspiracy to undermine the newly elected mayor. When tensions were high between Council President Kenny Kellis and Mayor Truong, Truong said, “Mr. President, I will drop a lawsuit on you, don’t play with me.”

Others commended the council and thanked them for taking up for the people of Bogalusa by requiring a balanced budget before moving forward.

Citizens posed important questions to the council about the freeze, asking how it would be monitored, which public services would be affected and how, and who would be signing the city’s checks and paying their bills. They also pressed the Council for a timeline for ending the freeze. The audits from previous years must be completed before a beginning fund balance can be determined, and the council indicated that this could take several months.

Truong said, “You don’t understand the gravitas of a spending freeze. It signifies to the public that we’re in a financial disaster which is not true.” When confronted about the lack of a fund balance, Truong said, “We don’t have a fund balance because you and your posse didn’t do your jobs.” Later he added, “I can’t do anything without them (the council) and they are hell-bent on ensuring that I can’t do anything.”


Councilwoman at large Penny Douglas stormed out of the meeting but later returned. On her way out she said, “I am a double-barreled shotgun and I have both barrels pointed at you,” referring to Truong. She clarified later in the meeting that her statement was not intended as a threat. Truong has since filed charges against her for threatening him and it is currently being investigated by the authorities.

After months of debate and multiple public hearings, the city effectively has no operating budget and will be forced to continue under a strict spending freeze for the foreseeable future. It is difficult to imagine a city budget that has no beginning—and by default—ending fund balance.  The freeze prevents the city from making new non-essential hires, creating new positions, reduces funding for functions related to capital projects, discontinues non-essential functions, and places all spending under intense scrutiny including contractual and financial obligations of the city.

If the issue isn’t resolved, there is a possibility that state auditors will be forced to take over and do their own accounting and budgeting for the city.