OPELOUSAS — After several years of projected million dollar general fund deficits, the city of Opelousas is continuing recent projections of seeing that fund, ever so slightly, in the black.
With that bit of good news, the board of aldermen on Tuesday approved unanimously the amended 2013-14 budget.
Mayor Donald Cravins Sr. said the city’s finances are improving and the municipal sewer and water department is expected to have more revenues than expenses after losing $600,000 annually just two years ago.
“I think we’re trending in the right direction. We’re especially pleased that we are starting to make money off the water department,” Cravins said.
Sewer fund revenue projections in the 2013-14 budget for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31 indicate $560,000 in anticipated revenues.
City comptroller Karen Frank said the 2013-14 budget improvement, which projects an excess of $81,766, is due mainly to cuts implemented by the board two years ago when a financial audit projected a $1.1 million shortfall.
“The departments have stayed within their 7 to 10 percent cuts, which helped us avoid deficits for the pasts two years,” Frank said.
Revenues in the 2013-14 budget are estimated at $16.136 million. Expenses in the same budget are projected at $16.055 million.
Cravins said the municipal department cuts have helped.
“Most of (the department heads) have stayed within their limitations. Our revenues are not bursting at the seams, but we are comfortable with the way the budget stands at present,” the mayor said.
Also introduced without discussion was the proposed 2014-15 budget, which becomes effective Sept. 1.
“This is just an introduction. It needs no discussion at this point,” Cravins told the board.
The proposed 2014-15 budget projects total revenues of $15.896 million and expenditures of $15.864 million.
Frank said the budget for the fiscal year which starts Sept. 1 is a developing issue.
“What you see in the budget is by no means final. There’s still a good bit of work to be performed on it,” Frank said.
Alderman Julius Alsandor said the Budget Committee plans to begin meeting with the municipal department heads starting Wednesday in order to plan the 2014-15 budget.
In a related budget matter, the board voted without opposition to deny a $22,912 request by Police Chief Perry Gallow to pay officers overtime for extra patrols after a crime and homicide spike in January.
The city has had seven homicides recorded since the start of the year, with three of those in January after violence accelerated in some areas due to drug activity, Gallow said.
He requested extra funding for the officers working overtime at an earlier meeting this year, but the board denied the proposed expenditure at that time.
The police chief followed that with his request Tuesday night after he told the board that the officers involved made 32 arrests, seized 15 handguns and collected $9,800 in cash as a result of the additional patrols.
Alsandor told Gallow the board could not approve the overtime because it was not included among the line items in the Police Department’s 2013-14 budget.
The Advocate was unable to locate Gallow after the meeting for further comment.
That budget shows a total expenditure of $5.54 million for the police department.
Police department expenses in the proposed 2014-15 budget are projected at $5.58 million.