Budget Update over last three council meetings

Published 12:48 pm Monday, May 13, 2024

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On May 7, the Mayor’s administration officially put their proposed operating budget for 2024 before the city council. In a calmer meeting, the public’s speaking time was cut from 4 minutes to 2 in a move the council said they were advised to take to bring the open discussions under control.

During the regularly scheduled meeting, the council authorized the mayor’s office to enter into a contract to repair the lift station at Amanda Court with an emergency ordinance. They also passed an ordinance that would help people with disabilities during public records requests, and another to allow the Dollar General on Sullivan to use a sign of the same size that they had before the renovation.

Mayor Tyrin Truong proclaimed May as Older Americans Month, and honored 96-year-old Melvina Jackson during the meeting. He said that his administration is working to promote community services, activities, and opportunities for the elderly population of Bogalusa.

On Thursday and Friday, the Finance Committee met again to discuss the budget in the War Room at City Hall. Perry Smalls and John Sanders said that their negotiations with the police and fire departments have been successful, and that they are working on final revisions to the budget’s fourth iteration now.

Regarding the closeout of fiscal year 2022, Sanders said that the advising firm charged with document preparation is about 82% complete. From there, it is estimated that the city’s CPA will need 3-4 months to review the documents before they can be returned to the comptroller for review and sent to the Louisiana Legislative Auditors Board for certification.

Smalls clarified that the 2023 closeout will be much faster as his office has been keeping meticulous records and preparing to begin that audit as soon as the 2022 closeout is complete. The deadline for the 2023 closeout is June 30, but the city may ask for an extension if one is required.

The audience sought clarification on the state of the sewerage system during the meeting, Councilman Mark Irvine said that “public health and safety are paramount.” He and Councilwoman Kates stated that the council would do whatever the public works department needs to avoid a catastrophic breakdown of the system.

Smalls said that he is working closely with the public works department to be proactive in the situation, and is doing his best to spend as little money as possible while avoiding disasters. “This is nobodies fault,” he said, “the system is set up for three pumps per station but many of them only have one working pump. If it goes out on a Saturday night, I have to find one fast.”

Smalls added that he is working to repair parts of the system as the roads above them are being worked on in order to be more efficient with the city’s time and money. Irvine said, “The Mayor’s office needs to put out a notice of no fishing or swimming in the rivers and creeks near the lift stations that aren’t working.”

When the audience pressed the committee on the accusations of misconduct surrounding the 2022 closeout, Kates revealed that the city is currently under investigation by the Legislative Auditors Board, and that their findings will reveal if any criminal charges are necessary. She also stated that there is an adjacent investigation by the FBI, but that she has no details.

“No agency has spoken to the council. We have investigations going on that we don’t even know about. If you have evidence, photo or video, take it to the D.A.,” said Irvine. Kates added that she had asked the new district attorney to conduct an investigation, but that those requests were denied. “Now that he is officially in office, maybe I should ask again,” she said, and added that she has already drafted much of the documentation to begin that investigation.

At the end of the meeting, it was concluded that while the council and mayor are marching toward a satisfactory operating budget, the council will not vote on it during their next meeting. Irvine said that they liked the mayor’s message in version 3 of the budget, and that it represented great strides towards their end goals.