LAFAYETTE — City-Parish President Joey Durel on Thursday proposed a tight budget for 2011-2012 that includes no money for employee raises and, like this year’s budget, dips heavily into savings to meet expenses.
The City-Parish Council must approve the budget, and Durel told the nine members that the focus should be to keep costs in check to rebuild the local government’s savings account, a financial cushion of sorts.
“We’ve got to start building that money back up,” he said.
The total proposed budget is $558 million, but the council has little leeway in spending most of that money because the bulk of it is accounted for by Lafayette’s public utility system, repaying past debt and mandated expenses.
The proposed operations budget, which will be the focus of the council’s budget hearings over the next few weeks, is $134 million, down from $141 million this year.
City-Parish Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups said expenses for retirement benefits and health care have risen while tax collections have remained flat.
Sales tax revenue has gone up, she said, but the increase has been offset by declining property tax revenues.
The proposed budget includes only one new position for city-parish government, bringing the total number of employees to 2,317.
The proposed budget calls for those employees to pay more for health insurance — 99 cents more per paycheck for single coverage and $8.46 more per paycheck for family coverage, according to figures from Toups.
Durel’s proposed budget includes no money for employee raises, other than a 2 percent state-mandated annual raise for firefighters.
City-parish employees have received across-the-board raises every year for the past 10 years.
When Durel proposed his budget for the current year, it initially had no money for employee raises, but the City-Parish Council later voted to fund a 2 percent across-the-board increase.
Paying for a similar raise in the next budget year will be difficult without cuts or dipping even further into prior years’ savings.
The proposed budget taps about $7.4 million in prior year savings to meet expenses, but Toups said that actual amount will probably be closer to $5.1 million because some budgeted expenses always fall through.
City-parish would still have more than $10 million in emergency reserves.
Durel said he feels that tax collections are on an upward trend but that any increasing revenues should be put into savings rather than spent.
“We’ve got to prepare for the day when it takes that dip,” Durel said.
The council has scheduled eight public hearings next month to discuss the proposed budget, going line-by-line through expenses for each city-parish department.
A hearing for residents’ input is scheduled for Aug. 25.
The council is scheduled to adopt the final budget on Sept. 27.
ON THE INTERNET: For a listing of the times and dates of budget hearings, visit, http://www.lafayettela.gov/obcouncil/default.aspx and click on “Budget Meeting Schedule.”