Council passes 2013 budget, factors in fire millageDec 21st, 2012 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: News
After a heated discussion between councilmen, the 2013 amended budget passed unanimously. The new budget now reflects the addition of revenues from the newly-passed fire millage and $3.5 million SAFER grant, which will be doled out over the next two years.
The addition of the fire millage revenues and first half of the SAFER grant to the amended 2013 budget saves the 79 fire department jobs that were up on the chopping block in the proposed 2013 budget. The proposed budget also eliminated 70 jobs in various parish government departments, but officials have said that the parish layoffs may not be as drastic as initially projected because of the new revenues. Parish Government is currently down to 433 employees, 82 fewer than at the start of 2012, but Parish President Dave Peralta said more cuts will be made in 2013.
“While down-sizing the organization has been a painful endeavor for everyone involved, there is unfortunately more work to be done in terms of “right-sizing” St. Bernard Parish Government for the post-Katrina environment,” said Peralta. “The Administration will make every effort to being employees back to the organization as our financial situation and operational needs dictate.”
Executive Finance Committee Chairman and Councilman Richie Lewis offered an amendment to the 2013 budget that he explained as essentially a middle ground for those who desire to keep services at the level their used to, while still scaling back government.
“It’s a series of cuts and transfers, that I think will help keep the services that citizens of the parish are used to, along with cuts that were promised to be made,” Lewis explained.
He added that the cuts and transfers in his budget amendment have a positive effect on General Fund, somewhere around $1 million.
Lewis also amended the language in the budget’s accompanying ordinance to say that each department shall be treated as its own fund, and no money can be moved from a department without action from the council.
District D Councilman Casey Hunnicutt questioned Lewis’ budget amendment, which initiated a tense back-and-forth between the two councilmen.
“It’s very confusing to hear a councilman say ‘I’m going to offer up these amendments, and they’re going to save jobs but its also going to cut—how do you save jobs and still cut? You can’t,” Hunnicutt said.
Speaking on Lewis’ budget amendment, Councilchair Guy McInnis said that “it fully uses the revenues generated for this parish in a way thats beneficial to our residents and is respectful to our employees.”
Both of Lewis’ amendments passed unanimously.