The City-Parish Council on Thursday approved a budget after adding about $2.3 million in additional expenses, despite a veto threat from City-Parish President Joey Durel.
The council made the additions, mostly for new positions and raises for first responders, during a series of budget hearings in recent weeks.
City-Parish Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups said current revenues cannot support the budget as approved, meaning city-parish government will have to dig into savings.
She said that troubles her, considering the uncertain future of tax revenue in Lafayette with the downturn in the oil patch.
“At this point in time, we are adopting something that we know is not sustainable,” Toups said.
Durel had asked the council to trim at least $637,000 of the additions to his administration’s proposed budget, saying he was considering vetoing the entire budget if they didn’t.
“That’s going to have consequences on us and this government and on future bond ratings,” Durel said of the added expenses. “We know that next year will not necessarily be a good year for sales tax collections.”
The warnings had no impact on the council, which declined to pull back any of the amendments.
Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux said he felt city-parish government has enough cushion in its reserves to support the budget.
The council has the prerogative to change the budget, he said, and Durel can wield his veto pen if he’s unhappy about it.
“Do not allow the legal process to have a rub on you. It is what it is,” Boudreaux said.
Durel left before the council made a final vote but said via email late Thursday that he has yet to determine whether he will act on the veto threat.
“We will discuss over the next couple of days. But, as you heard, I gave them an opportunity to avoid a veto,” he said. “They chose not to make the difficult decision. Election-year budgets are not good for the taxpayers.”
Six members of the nine-member council would have to agree to overcome a veto.
Some of the biggest budget additions came from Boudreaux, who added more than $1 million for projects in his north Lafayette district, including new sidewalks on Carmel Drive, a new parking lot at the George Dupuis Recreation Center on Pont des Mouton Drive and money to finish a crime scene lab at a police substation on Moss Street.
But those additions were not at the heart of the concerns raised by the administration because the projects are nonrecurring capital expenses, which are less of an issue to long-range budget planning than operating expenses that must be met year after year.
The biggest additional operating expense was an extra $625,000 for Fire Department raises added by Councilman Jay Castille.
The extra money would pay for salary bumps above and beyond the state-mandated 2 percent raise already in the budget for firefighters.
He has said the raise helps bring firefighter salaries in line with those of the police officers, who received increases in last year’s budget.
Councilman Kevin Naquin added about $146,000 to fund three new deputy marshals for the City Marshal’s Office.
Chief Deputy Marshal Phil Conrad said the office, which now has 18 commissioned officers, has not grown for a decade.
“Since 2004, we have not had any additional staff,” he said. “The workload since 2004 has increased by 63 percent.”
The total city-parish budget, not including the city-owned utility system, is about $340 million, with about $180 million of that for day-to-day operations and the remainder for capital expenses, such as roads, vehicles and buildings.
The budget year begins Nov. 1.