The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council gave the green light to Mayor-President Kip Holden’s $880.4 million city-parish budget for 2016.
The council voted without objection to approve the budget, which includes pay raises for government employees and significant boosts for public safety agencies. Three council members were absent from the vote: Chauna Banks-Daniel, Ronnie Edwards and Ryan Heck.
Holden thanked the council for its support of the budget.
“Thank you for your cooperation that we’ve had,” he said. “We’ve worked through another tough budget, but we’ve put our differences aside for the public’s interest to be put up front.”
The Metro Council has the ability to move funds in the mayor’s proposed budget with a super majority vote. This year, however, the Metro Council signed off on Holden’s budget as is, despite requests from City Court to give it $386,000 above its proposed allocation to purchase a new case management system.
The budget is a 6 percent increase over the current year. But the general fund, at $312.4 million, is less than 2 percent more than 2015. The general fund is financed primarily from a 2 percent sales tax and pays for the major governmental departments, including public works, police and fire. It’s the only discretionary part of the budget, as the rest of the funds are tied to taxes, debt service and pensions.
Almost 55 percent of the general fund goes toward public safety, including police, fire, EMS, maintenance of the Parish Prison and an allocation for the district attorney’s and coroner’s offices.
Both the district attorney’s and the coroner’s offices saw some of the richest budget increases over the previous year. The District Attorney’s Office is receiving a 16 percent increase for a total of $6.4 million, to help offset employee benefit spikes. The Coroner’s Office is getting a 25 percent increase for a total of $2.8 million, part of which is coming from self generated fees, in accordance with a law passed in the legislative session detailing requirements for a sexual assault response plan and regional forensic facility for the seven-parish area.
About $8.2 million has been allocated for pay raises and related benefits for employees. The increase is related to a pay plan change that went into effect in April, increasing salaries across the board by 2 percent. The city-parish’s new minimum wage was increased from $8.05 to $9.30 per hour.