Big improvements are coming Walker’s way, according to the proposed 2016 budget for the city.
Nearly half of the city’s $10.6 million general fund budget for next year represents income and expenses related to road rehab and extension work at the Livingston Parish Industrial Park on the east end of the city.
Those improvements, projected to cost about $5 million, are being funded through a combination of grants and contributions from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, state and parish economic development groups, Livingston Parish government and the city of Walker.
Other capital improvement projects slated for 2016 include construction of a $1.2 million water well to supply the new tower near Our Lady of the Lake Hospital south of Interstate 12, continuation of a $684,000 sidewalk project, about $425,000 in gas service extensions along Juban Road and Buddy Ellis Road, $368,000 in water and sewer upgrades at the industrial park and a $12,000 extension of the new fishing pier at Sidney Hutchinson Park.
The budget will go before the City Council for discussion and a vote on Dec. 14.
Excluding pass-through funding like grants, the general fund would collect about $4.4 million in local revenue for 2016, including $2.5 million in sales taxes and $500,000 combined in property, franchise and alcoholic beverage taxes. Permit and license fees, fines and charges for services make up the rest.
On the expenditures side, the general fund budget proposes $2.4 million for the police department, $1.7 million for general government and administration, $1.3 million for the streets department, $270,000 for parks and recreation and $225,000 for animal control services.
General fund expenditures are projected to outpace revenue by about $1.4 million, a difference largely negated by a $1 million transfer from the city’s enterprise fund, which accounts for the city’s utility and garbage services.
“The general fund always runs a little in the negative, and we transfer from our enterprise fund to cut it,” Mayor Rick Ramsey said. “That has been the case for the past, at least, 20 years.”
The enterprise fund is projected to collect $6.2 million from gas service, $1.5 million from water, $1 million from sewer and $362,000 for garbage service in 2016. Both the sewer and garbage services are expected to operate at a loss for the year, but the surpluses in gas and water would be more than sufficient to cover those losses.
Even after accounting for depreciation and the transfer to the general fund, the enterprise fund is projected to record a surplus of $1.4 million next year, bringing the fund’s reserve balance up to $17.2 million.
Ramsey said the city’s overall net worth has gone up drastically in recent years, in part because of the growing balance in the reserve fund.
Balances in the general fund and special revenue fund would drop from a combined $3.2 million in 2015 to $2.9 million in 2016.
But with a projected $5 million gain in capital assets and a $350,000 decrease in long-term liabilities in 2016, the city looks to increase its overall net position from $19.8 million to $26.2 million.
“Our financial picture is very positive,” Ramsey said. “We’ve been able to do a lot and still meet our objective of not taking out long-term loans while making capital improvements and increasing assets on hand. Our future is bright, both from the standpoint of the budget and improvements.”
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.