Some members of the Metro Council say they are counting on Mayor-President Kip Holden to find some additional money to address community needs.
Four council members — Tara Wicker, Donna Collins-Lewis, Ronnie Edwards and C. Denise Marcelle — put in a request to Holden last year to include $675,000 in the 2013 city-parish budget to fund programs aiding youths and the elderly in their districts.
Several of the proposed programs are aimed at providing summer care or employment opportunities to children who are out of school.
With summer break right around the corner, council members said they are hopeful that the mayor will act sooner rather than later.
Edwards said council members negotiated with Holden’s administration last year, agreeing to forgo their requests in the 2013 budget, which is approved in December, if the mayor agreed to work with the council on a budget supplement that would later address their issues.
The Metro Council approved Holden’s proposed 2013 budget in December unanimously and without any changes. The previous year, the council made substantial changes to his budget over Holden’s objections.
“We had a conversation in good faith, and something should have happened between January and April to show that there was some honest work happening,” Edwards said.
The council can only move line items around within the mayor’s proposed annual budget when it is presented in December of each year.
Outside of the annual budget process, the mayor-president decides where and how any revenue that comes in above budget projections is allocated.
The Metro Council can only vote up or down on a budget supplement and can not designate money for other purposes.
Edwards said budget conversations for the city-parish and various agencies hoping for funds start shifting after the middle of the year toward the 2014 budget.
Holden said Tuesday that the city-parish budget is in “flux” until it is clear what the Legislature plans to do with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposal to eliminate state income tax.
The proposal could affect state and local tax structures.
“We’ve only discussed it (the budget supplement) in part, and we’ve still got to figure how much money we’re dealing with,” Holden said. “The unknown factor is the Legislature, because cities far and wide are saying this could have a devastating blow to local governments.”
Wicker said she had expected the mayor to have proposed a budget supplement for the programs sought by council members by February.
“I don’t know where it is, but the timeline, especially for the summer programs, is pretty critical,” Wicker said. “We need to be able to keep kids off the street during the summer and give them something productive to do, or a skill set.”
Collins-Lewis said she hopes the council will see a budget proposal from Holden’s office for the community programs by the end of April.
“I’m hoping something will happen so the agencies have time to properly prepare,” she said.
Another agency Collins-Lewis said she is concerned about is the Council on Aging, which suffered state budget cuts earlier this year. The council’s budget request called for $200,000 for the Council on Aging.
Tasha Clark-Amar, executive director of the Council on Aging, said the agency was cut about $140,000 earlier this year which has had an impact on its ability to serve meals to seniors.
Clark-Amar said she also expects this legislative session could eliminate state tax exemptions the agency has benefitted from and that additional state funding could be cut.
“I’m currently contracted to feed 280 seniors a day, but it’s actually fluctuating between 575 and 700 seniors that show up for hot meals every day,” Clark-Amar said.
“Eventually, I’m going to have to turn seniors away and say, ‘I just don’t have the budget.’ ”
Clark-Amar said she’s been encouraged by conversations with the mayor’s office and the Metro Council about making additional funds available.
The council requested $200,000 for the Council on Aging, $250,000 for the Louisiana Leadership Institute, $25,000 for the David Paul Learning Center for summer camp and after school tutoring, $25,000 for the Gloryland Summer Enrichment Program, $25,000 for the Art and Reading Summer Enrichment Program for the Crossover House, $25,000 for the Delmont Service Center Youth Summer Employment Program, $25,000 for the Abounding Love Ministries Children’s Defense Fund and Freedom School, $25,000 for an outreach coordinator at the Leo S. Butler Community Center and $75,000 for the Film Media Production Job Training, to provide training and employ youth in the film and media industry.
Last year, Holden issued the year’s most substantial budget supplement of $11.1 million for public safety needs in June.