With a flurry of laudatory remarks, the Covington City Council passed a $24.3 million budget for 2016 Tuesday night, bringing to a close a mostly collegial process that began in September.
The budget includes raises for city employees, hiring of a purchasing agent, a master plan for the city’s Bogue Falaya Wayside Park and other capital projects, including bridges, drainage improvements and sidewalks.
In a separate ordinance, the council approved a salary of $84,069 for Mayor Mike Cooper, a 5 percent raise over this year. The mayor’s compensation package gives him the option of using a city vehicle or taking a $750 monthly car allowance.
Police Chief Tim Lentz is the only other city official getting that choice, with the option of a $600 monthly car allowance.
Overall, the council approved a $16.1 million operating budget and an $8.2 million capital budget for 2016. The city’s fiscal year begins Jan. 1.
Sales tax revenue in 2016 is expected to tick up by about 1 percent, to a little more than $11 million. On Saturday, Covington voters will decide whether to extend a portion of the city’s 1-cent sales tax and give officials more flexibility in how the proceeds can be spent.
Property taxes are expected to bring in $2.6 million, most of which will go into the general fund.
The 2016 budget omits some funds the city holds but doesn’t want to spend yet: about $1.1 million in BP settlement money, $350,000 set aside for future retirement obligations and another $2 million in reserve.
The $24.3 million total is slightly more than Cooper requested when he presented the budget in September, mostly because of changing expense forecasts and supplemental requests he presented during the budget hearings.
During Tuesday’s meeting, council members took turns praising Cooper and his staff for the work they put into preparing the spending plan.
“This is the best group of department heads we have ever had in my six terms on the council,” Lee Alexius said. “The budget process is easy when you do your jobs, and you are doing your jobs.”
Cooper also lauded Finance Director Alisa Faciane and Chief Administrative Officer Gina Hayes for their work in getting the budget ready.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.