Denham Springs — The public will have a chance Monday night to weigh in on Denham Springs’ 2016 fiscal year budget that offers no pay increases for employees but provides for about $1 million in roadwork.
Council members are expected to adopt the budget, which includes its $11.3 million general fund, for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The meeting begins at 6 p.m.
The budget is the first prepared by recently elected Mayor Gerard Landry and his administration. Though much of the proposed budget is similar to previous years, it does offer insights into the city’s workings.
City employees may find little to love in the budget: There’s no money for raises, Landry vowed to cut down on overtime and the city is eliminating positions through attrition. Workers also will be under increased scrutiny as the city is planning to roll out time clocks that require a fingerprint scan to punch in.
Landry said six or seven positions have gone unfilled since January in an effort to save money, the most notable being one for assistant fire chief.
“I’m sure (the remaining employees) can handle it. They better,” said Councilman Rene Delahoussaye, chairman of the city’s Finance Committee.
He said he’d like to offer raises, maybe 2 or 3 percent as soon as next year, but he can’t make any guarantees.
“I know we have some good employees. … I know how hard our employees work,” he said.
The majority of the money in the general fund comes from the city’s sales tax, which officials have said has grown about 3 percent annually over the past three years. The 2016 budget accounts for only a 1.5 percent increase, for a total collection of $7.5 million.
It’s a conservative estimate, Landry said. He wants to make sure the city collects more than planned rather than spend money it doesn’t have.
Yet the rate of growth may finally be slowing. Delahoussaye said that while the sales tax numbers are still growing, the rate has fallen in the past quarter.
The city is clearly planning for more construction in the year ahead and has projected a 25 percent increase in contractors’ licensing fees from the city building inspector’s office. Landry said much of the development will continue to occur south of the interstate. He specifically noted a new neighborhood off Cockerham Road, which will have 26 new houses in the $300,000 to $350,000 range.
“That’s the kind of development I’d like to see. ... More homes and bigger homes,” Landry said.
Other notable items in the proposed budget include over $1 million in roadwork throughout the city and $3,500 to buy chemicals to spray mosquitoes, though the head of the parish’s mosquito abatement program has questioned whether the amount is sufficient. While the parish is closing its abatement program, the city is restarting its program.
The city also is spending $115,000 on software and equipment to streamline accounting and payroll and push toward paperless communication.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.