Mayor-President Kip Holden is asking the Metro Council to allow him to make a midyear budget allocation of $3.3 million for public safety, sidewalks, traffic calming measures and a program that will bus homeless people out of the city.
The Metro Council is expected to vote on the budget supplement at its Wednesday meeting.
The annual city-parish budget is proposed by the mayor and approved by the Metro Council every December. Any additional changes to the budget require council approval. For the past few years, Holden has bundled allocations in a single midyear budget request, which often includes specific items of interest for Metro Council members.
This year his request includes: $1.63 million for Baton Rouge Fire Department vehicle and gear equipment; $110,000 for new uniforms for the Baton Rouge Police Department; $650,000 for sidewalk improvements across the parish; $100,000 for traffic calming; $250,000 for further development and implementation of FutureBR, the parish’s land use plan; and $10,000 for the Way Home Program to bus homeless to their loved ones out of the city.
The money would come mostly from undesignated reserves of the city-parish general fund, made possible by some surpluses, said William Daniel, chief administrative officer to Holden.
The city-parish experimented with busing homeless people out of Baton Rouge for the first time last year. The program was allocated only $5,000 at the time, which was estimated to reach about 33 people. The initiative was initially branded as “Clean Sweep,” but later rebranded as HOPE.
Daniel said the program was very successful, and responsibly overseen by city police.
Similar programs in other parts of the country to bus homeless people out of cities have been criticized as inhumane and ineffective.
“If you’re just busing them to another city, that’s inhumane,” Daniel said. “But we’re identifying family members, and that’s very humane.”
Traffic calming measures and sidewalks are top constituent requests. Daniel said the Department of Public Works will ultimately decide where the traffic calming funds are appropriated. In recent months the Goodwood Property Owners Association crafted its own plan, requesting speed bumps, one-way roads, stop signs and bike paths to the tune of $100,000.
The sidewalk funds would be used on Goodwood Boulevard, College Drive, Hanks and Landis drives and Gardere Lane.
“Those are high pedestrian areas with no shoulder to walk on,” Daniel said. “The mayor has made it a priority to get these done.”
The budget supplement also would allocate $400,000 for turn lane improvements at Mickens Road at Joor Road and Mickens Road at Hooper Road.
Each of the five community centers also would be allocated $5,000 for repairs and improvements. The community centers are located in the underserved parts of the parish, and provide hubs for city-parish services and programs and community space for neighborhoods. They are run by the council members in whose districts the centers are located.
The supplement also would give the District Attorney’s Office $125,000 for a new telephone system, and BREC $110,000 to cover half of the cost of a roof replacement for its sports academy.