BAKER — After questioning Mayor Harold Rideau about capital improvement projects and pay raises, the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to pass a $16 million budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
Council members Joyce Burges and Charles Vincent asked for detailed explanations of some items on the budget, such as utility improvements. The budget also includes base pay adjustments and a 2 percent raise for civil service employees.
“I know how hard (finance director Traci Lang) and (Rideau) and (administrative officer) Darnell Waites worked to put this together,” councilman Pete Heine said. “I know we don’t have very much money. How you were able to balance (the budget), I don’t know.”
“Everybody supports the mayor. Just because we ask questions doesn’t mean we are in contention,” Burges countered.
“Your actions don’t reflect that,” Heine answered.
Police Chief Mike Knaps said putting together the budget with the mayor and city administrative staff was a positive experience.
“We tried to climb a mountain, and we didn’t reach the top, but we got to where we could see it,” he said.
Compromises were made in all departments, Rideau said. “No one got everything they wanted. Everyone was willing to give.”
The budget includes $59,000 for a contract with East Baton Rouge animal control, something that was omitted in the 2013-2014 budget.
“We had to choose in the past between animal control and putting (police) officers on the street,” Rideau said. “If you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money.”
Rideau added that he was unhappy with the quality of service the parish animal control provided to Baker in the past.
“We will try to work with them and get an understanding” about the services Baker should receive, the mayor said.
In other business, the council discussed searching for a new auditor. Postlethwaite and Netterville has declined to renew its contract with the city, Burges said. She declined to give reasons for the firm’s decision.
The council chose Postlethwaite and Netterville to audit the city in 2013. At that time, the Stages auditing firm had been working with the city for 50 years.
“I felt that we needed fresh eyes on the finances of the city of Baker (in 2013),” Burges said.
“After you ask for proposals (from auditing firms), you need to set up criteria, not like before” when the council chose Postlethwaite and Netterville, the mayor said. “That was a joke.”