Facing declining sales tax revenue, Zachary officials discussed ways of generating and saving money during a workshop Tuesday attended by Mayor David Amrhein, the City Council and department heads.
Reducing raises and considering a new tax were up for discussion.
Budget information shared by Steve Nunnery, director of administration, indicates a decrease in overall sales tax revenue from 2014 to 2015.
Nunnery’s budget numbers showed decreases of $209,000 in the general fund and more than $39,500 in the street fund.
He said from July 2014 to December 2014, sales tax revenue totaled $3,809,457, compared with July 2015 to December 2015, which totaled $3,600,076.
When compared with Baker, Central, East Baton Rouge and Zachary schools, Zachary was the only municipality in the parish showing a decrease in sales tax revenue, he said. While Baker didn’t change much, Central had an increase of about $600,000, Nunnery said.
“That’s because they have actively pursued growth,” Amrhein said.
“This gives me pause to think about what’s going on here,” said Nunnery. “If the entire parish had gone down, then I’d say it’s happening everywhere, but we’re the only community, so we need to look at that. Mainly, we need to get people to spend locally.”
To save money, Zachary is considering a vehicle program like the one the city of Ruston implements.
Under the plan, city vehicles, excluding police cruisers, would be rotated out of service and replaced with newer ones every five years. The plan would save on paying an in-house mechanic, Nunnery said.
Another topic discussed was the city’s municipal pay plan, which hasn’t changed since 2008 and does not affect fire and police personnel, who are on their own pay raise systems.
Instead of annual raises, the plan calls for an increase in pay every other year, but cost of living and performance raises would not be affected.
Amrhein said he’d recommend the plan to the council.
“Expenses have been reduced everywhere possible. More than 84 percent of the police budget goes to salaries and benefits, so when you’re talking about making cuts, there is nothing left to cut except people, and we can’t do that,” Nunnery said.
Amrhein said he met with Fire Chief Danny Kimble, encouraging the department to decrease its annual 3 percent raise to 2 percent in an effort to save money.
“They understood. I’m sure they’re not happy about it, but they understood,” added Amrhein.
After more discussion, Nunnery asked the council to consider an ad valorem tax this year to help generate more revenue.
“It’s our responsibility to look at all options, especially since sales tax revenues are decreasing,” Nunnery added.
Amrhein agreed, saying it was his responsibility as mayor to make sure the city grows and remains financially stable. “There is only so much money in this pie to go around.”
By law, no vote can be taken at a workshop meeting.
The City Council’s next regular meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.