The proposed 2012 budget for East Baton Rouge Parish is projected to grow less than half a percent compared with the current year’s budget.
Mayor-President Kip Holden presented his proposed budget of $745 million to a handful of Metro Council members on Friday.
The city-parish’s 2012 general fund, which pays for most city-parish operations, is $280.6 million — an increase of $4.6 million over the 2011 budget.
Any increases in the budget will be absorbed by the climbing costs of health insurance, retirement contributions, and merit and longevity raises.
“This budget provides for workforce at current levels, funding for the rising cost of benefits for employees, and funding for all other commissions,” Holden said.
The budget’s modest boost is mostly attributable to an increase in revenue from the 2-cent sales tax that goes to the city-parish general fund.
Holden’s staff is projecting a $4.7 million increase in sales tax revenues for the 2012 general fund over the fund’s 2011 budget.
The standstill budget does not provide for many increases for departments or agencies funded by the city-parish.
For example, the Capital Area Transit System requested a budget allocation of $5.4 million, to help the cash-strapped bus company balance its budget amid the loss of federal and state funds. But the 2012 budget only proposed about $3 million for CATS, which is on par with its allocations for the past several years.
The District Attorney’s Office also asked for an increased city-parish allocation of $5.4 million, which was about a 12 percent increase over its 2011 allocation. But the city-parish proposed a $4.7 million allocation.
Both CATS and the District Attorney’s Office receive funds from other revenue sources that supplement their operating budgets.
Baton Rouge police would receive a 1.2 percent budget bump over last year, giving the agency a budget of $78.6 million.
The Baton Rouge Fire Department is also projected to get an increase of 2.9 percent, giving the agency a budget of $44.5 million.
The Department of Public Works would receive a 2 percent increase, giving the agency $48.4 million in 2012.
Holden noted that the city-parish has not yet been forced to lay off employees, force employees to take furloughs or end merit and longevity pay increases like many other peer cities in the country.
Most employees receive a 3 percent merit increase, until they reach a step ceiling. Employees also still receive longevity increases of 1 percent after working for the city-parish for 10 years.
The Metro Council is expected to hold budget hearings with city-parish staff before the final council meeting of the year on Dec. 14.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker said he’ll be looking at public safety agencies such as police, fire and EMS to ensure they’re adequately funded.
He said he’d like both the Police and Fire departments to have additional academies to hire more employees in 2012, in addition to the academies both will conduct this year.
Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards said she’ll be looking at discretionary line items in search of wasteful spending.
Edwards said she is mindful of low-wage earners employed in the Department of Public Works, many of whom haven’t received raises in years.
At the final council meeting, the Metro Council can make line item changes to Holden’s budget before approving it.
In December, the Metro Council made two changes to Holden’s budget proposal — stripping a $300,000 subsidy for the 2011 Bayou Country Superfest and removing $250,000 in discretionary funds from the mayor’s budget.
The Superfest money was shifted to juvenile services programs and the Baton Rouge Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center.
The discretionary funds were moved to the District Attorney’s Office.
Walker said he expects the Metro Council to discuss making changes to Holden’s budget this year.
“We have some differences of opinions with the mayor’s administration about the way money should be spent,” he said.
Budget and revenue comparisons
2012 Proposed Budget: $745.6 million (0.46 percent growth)
2011 Budget: $742.2 million
2010 Budget: $703.8 million
2012 General Fund Revenue: $280.6 million
2011 General Fund Revenue: $276 million
2010 General Fund Revenue: $283.1 million