Following two days and nine hours of council workshops, the City of Minden is now looking at a proposed 2014-15 fiscal year budget of $30.3 million that is very tight but balanced, Mayor Tommy Davis said.
"Our budget is a reflection of the economy," Davis said. "Revenues are flat and expenses – everything is costing more. We are proud that this proposed budget is balanced without taking anything out of reserves."
Davis said he was unhappy with the budget in its original form, however, he said the council worked "two long, hard nights, and we all came together and were able to work out a balanced budget because everybody did some give and take. The council worked very well together. There were some hard choices made."
With that give and take in all departments, the proposed budget reflects nothing that would "hurt" employees, he said.
"We have figured in the 2 percent longevity raise for the employees and we also have managed to give the police officers a raise," Davis said. "We did that by cutting the number of slots for officers."
Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper currently has 36 slots for officers. By cutting the number to 33, the council was able to take salaries from the missing three and give the remaining officers a raise, without adding to the budget.
"We just divided that money between every officer, so every one will get a raise," Davis said. "We've had police officers leave and go other places. We needed to get competitive, so we were able to do that without actually raising the budget for that department."
Davis said the raise should come to around $1,800 per officer, per year.
In order to curtail spending, the proposed budget reflects a "hiring freeze," the mayor said.
"That doesn't mean that we aren't going to hire anybody," he pointed out. "We had about six slots in different departments that were not filled and haven't been for several years. But they were always in the budget."
By reducing those positions, however, it is not a reduction in force.
"If somebody retires or leaves, we can replace those people," he said. "We just aren't going to fill those that have been vacant. By taking them out, that reduces the budget pretty significantly."
Council members agreed to leave in the budget a $720,000 pumper/ladder truck for the Minden Fire Department.
"We are going to do something the city has not done in the past," Davis said. "Because of our cash flow, we are going to finance it. This is something we can build into the budget every year and pay it out over time."
The additional truck will help ensure Minden's fire rating remains low, keeping homeowners' insurance premiums from being as high as in some cities.
"It should be at least 20 years before we need a new truck," Davis said.
Unfortunately, street overlay will take a backseat to other projects over the coming year, if the council votes in favor of the budget.
"That doesn't mean we won't do street repairs," Davis stressed. "Public Works Director George Rolfe said that as long as we do maintenance and repairs, we can go another year without doing any overlays. It will save us about $550,000."
Some hours of operation were also cut at the Minden Recreation Center.
"We went back and looked at some times when attendance is very low," the mayor said. "By cutting operating hours, it does cut some employee time, but no full-time employees will be affected."
Davis said City Clerk Michael Fluhr and assistant Martha Conley put in many long hours on the proposed budget.
"They've put an inordinate amount of time and work on this," Davis said. "And they've done a fantastic job on it."
The public can view the proposed budget beginning some time this week at Minden City Hall. There will be a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 2, immediately prior to the council's regular meeting where the budget will be put to a final vote.