LC City cutbacks net big budget savings - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

LC City cutbacks net big budget savings

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

It was a grim outlook an estimated $5,000,000 deficit, but an audit of the City's finances for the fiscal year ending September 2011 reveals that projected hole was reduced to only $500,000.

"So I think the administration and finance department and entire city should be commended on their fiscal responsibility as it pertained to managing its resources and operating within its means," said Jason Guillory, with McElroy, Quirk & Burch.

Lake Charles City Finance Director Karen Harrell explained how they managed to bridge the gap.

"You can look we kind of had increases everywhere. We had increases in property tax, increases in sales tax," said Harrell.

It all adds up starting with revenues: a $1,900,000 increase  

Expenditures: $2,600,000 saved - mainly from putting off some heavy equipment needed by public works.

Overtime - $377,000 saved.

The city also eliminated 30 vacant positions which netted big savings in salaries.

"We spent $400,000 less which is really pretty good when you consider our fire employees are required a 2% longevity raise each year. So we give that same longevity to almost all other employees. So even though we had a 2% pay increase we still saved in total amount we spent in salaries," said Harrell.

While increasing retirement costs continue to be one of the largest factors: more than $1,200,000 last year - the City is banking on sales tax revenue to stay on the rise while closely watching the price at the pump.

"Right now you can go around town and it's not uncommon to see premium at $4.00 or more a gallon. That affects not only us in terms of the expenses that we have but also affects the citizens as to how much disposable income," said Mayor Randy Roach.

City officials admit they can't keep putting off capital expenditures like equipment needed for public works - which did result in savings. They also said every fiscal budget is a work in progress and constantly look for ways to cut and save.

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