Metro Council members have only begun to skim the surface of Mayor Kip Holden’s proposed $830 million budget, which he presented in a 502-page document at a special meeting Wednesday evening, but some have already identified departments and causes that might need more cash in the coming year.
The city-parish’s overall budget includes a 2.5% increase in revenues, which equates to an increase of roughly $26 million. But only $7.5 million of that is included in the general fund, which is more flexible for council members to reallocate.
“There’s a lot to take care of,” Councilwoman Tara Wicker, also this year’s Budget Hearing chairwoman, tells Daily Report this morning. Wicker says she hasn’t had time to review specific funding amounts, but that she wants to check in with certain programs to “make sure that there are adequate dollars available.” Those include the city’s summer youth development programs, infrastructure improvements and the BRAVE initiative expansion in the 70802 ZIP code.
In Holden’s proposed budget, $2.5 million of the $7.5 million in increased general fund revenue would go to public safety operations, including renovations to a Government Street fire station and funding for an additional police officer academy class. Another roughly $2.5 million of the additional general fund dollars will go to salaries and benefits for city employees. Though Holden called this allotment a raise during his presentation Wednesday evening, Councilman John Delgado says the amount is what city-parish employees are scheduled to see in merit and longevity pay increases—not supplemental to that—and it is therefore not a raise.
Delgado says he would have “serious misgivings” voting for a budget that doesn’t include an additional raise for city-parish employees. Wicker and council members Donna Collins-Lewis and Buddy Amoroso also say they want to see pay raises in the budget. —Kelly Connelly Read the full story.