While Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome's proposed budget for 2019 increases funding for the District Attorney's office, the chief administrator for the East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutor says layoffs might be required if his department is to make ends meet.
Broome on Monday unveiled a $926.2 million funding plan for the coming year, including a $300,000 increase for District Attorney Hillar Moore III. The prosecutor's office had sought a half-million-dollar increase, though even that amount wouldn't completely close a funding gap.
"I imagine we'll have to speak to the Metro Council and see what can be done," Mark Dumaine, Moore's chief of administration, said during a telephone interview shortly after the mayor's budget presentation to the council during a special meeting. "If that's all we're getting, we'll have a $1 million deficit next year. It's a disappointment."
Prosecutors blame a decline in revenue generated by criminal court filings for a tight budget.
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Broome's Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel said the administration is "doing as much as we think we can" when it comes to the needs of the DA's Office.
In June, Moore had sent a letter to Broome asking for more money because his office was in "financial crisis." Moore said previously he had to lay off at least six employees and harbored concerns over the increase caseloads his office will face in the near future as the number of homicides in the city-parish increases.
The $300,000 in increased funding included in the proposed 2019 budget would give the DA's Office approximately $7 million to spend next year — a 4.5 percent increase over the $6.7 million it received for 2018.
Some East Baton Rouge Parish residents are nervous that the number of homicides this year might match or surpass 2017's record-breaking total of 106.
Dumaine said Monday there could be another round of layoffs if they can't get extra $200,000 the DA's Office needs.
"It's gotta come out somewhere, doesn't it?" he said.
In her message to the council Monday, the mayor said public safety is a top priority in her proposed spending plan for 2019, which she called a "standstill" budget with only a 0.76 percent increase in total spending compared to last year. That amounts to about $7 million.
Half of the projected spending in that increase can be found in the general fund, which is up 1.1 percent, or $3.5 million, compared to the amount in the 2018 budget.
The general fund accounts for nearly 35 percent of the total budget and outlines the revenue and expenditures for general government operations in the city-parish.
The administration wants to dedicate approximately $177.2 million to public safety next year to fund additional training academies for the city's police department, use nearly $500,000 to replace police vehicles and spend another $1 million to purchase an aerial fire truck Broome said the city-parish needs to maintain its top fire rating.
Other projected spending for public safety includes approximately $820,000 to obtain, for first responders, new radios that will be linked to the parish's new Real-Time Crime Center. The center is set to open before the end of the year.
Johnny Dunham, deputy chief of the Baton Rouge Police Department, said the crime center will mirror one New Orleans implemented six months ago, which essentially merges all the various communications and surveillance technology across various agencies into a central hub where crime analysis and first-responder dispatch can take place.
The city-parish's crime center will located on the second floor of police headquarters, he said.
"We're trying to use private funds and some budget funds to do this," Dunham said.
As for recruitment needs, Dunham said the police department is 67 officers short in its 698 allotment.
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Broome also set aside funds for a police management study she said would identify cost savings and maximize the available manpower within the city's police department.
The proposed budget includes $190,000 to add a public works assistant to the mayor's team of assistant chief administrative officers, another nearly $200,000 for additional staffing with the planning commission and purchasing department and the second $250,000 installment for the city-parish's food desert initiative in north Baton Rouge.
On the general fund's revenue side, the administration is projecting a conservative growth rate of 1 percent in estimated sales tax revenues and a 1.5 percent growth in anticipated property taxes in 2019, but a total decline of approximately $1.3 million in revenue from court fees, fines and gaming revenue.
Broome's proposed budget will be considered for adoption by the Metro Council Dec. 12. The council will likely hold several public hearings to address their concerns, as well as those of other departments, before then.