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Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024

Starting The New Year Right


Mayor pleased with new budget, capital improvement plans

Shreveport Mayor Tom Arceneaux, the city council and the administration stayed busy right up to the Christmas holiday break to get this year started on the right foot.

Before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, the Shreveport City Council passed a budget for this year. Arceneaux called it “not quite balanced on a fiscal year basis” back in December, “Essentially, we have a budget that is a little out of balance on a fiscal year basis but is constitutionally balanced because we anticipate starting the year with about $25 million in operating reserve,” Arceneaux explained. “Our goal was to end the year with the same number. If the budget carries out the way it was passed, we won’t quite do that.”

Still, the mayor said he was pleased with the result.

“That worked out to be a good process,” Arceneaux said of the budget. “I would have preferred to have it the way I had it, but that’s not the way the legislative process works. I thought there was good give and take with the council.”

The city council does have to address a couple of lingering issues from the budget early this year. One of those is the prospect of an increased sanitation fee. The fee would add $3 to residents’ monthly water bills and help pay for raises for police officers and firefighters.

“If the sanitation fee does not pass, we will have to delay raises or dip into the reserve,” Arceneaux said. “We will have to make that decision when it’s time to be made.”

The second matter to address is increasing water rates to put the city into compliance with its bond covenants and the ratios they require.

“We are working to reduce the amount that’s supposed to be (in the covenants),” Arceneaux said. “The only reason we are doing that is because of the bond covenants – simply making sure we are fulfilling the promises to the people who loaned us the money.

“I think we will need an increase, and we will get the votes for an increase. We are hoping that is not 20 percent. We think there may be a way to reduce that significantly, so the hit to the ratepayer will be less significant.”

Capital improvements

The Citizens Capital Improvements study committee completed its work on Dec. 14 and presented its findings to the city council on Dec. 21.

Arceneaux created the committee to develop a list of priorities for capital improvements around the city to put into bond proposals for a vote this year. He said he was pleased with the committee’s work.

“I think the committee did an outstanding job,” he said. “We (the administration) ended up having some input into the priorities. We had $400-plus million in projects. That was too big. They had to set some priorities. They got some input from us. But it was truly a grassroots effort. They asked for our input late in the game. But basically the committee acted by consensus in the decisions they made.”

Arceneaux said he would have discussions with each city council member to consider the priorities in each member’s district and reduce the amount of the bond proposals to a more manageable number.

“My goal was $250 million,” Arceneaux said. “What they came up with was almost $260 million. That is a small enough difference that I am happy with the priorities where they are. That would result in approximately 10 mils to the taxpayer. That’s a very reasonable investment to make in the city.”


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