Oberlin deals with big budget deficit - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Oberlin deals with big budget deficit

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OBERLIN, LA (KPLC) -

Oberlin is experiencing a budget crisis after the 2012 fiscal year left the town with a deficit totaling around $209,373. 

The previous fiscal year in 2011 left Oberlin with a surplus of $527,930. 

This year's debt will cause major budget cuts for the town, leaving some town officials unhappy, like Oberlin Police Chief Grady Haynes.

"Never had we had this type of problem in Oberlin. We've never went without insurance. We've never went without benefits. So, it's a problem somewhere and it's happening in the last couple of years," Haynes said.

Haynes' department will take cuts as the town begins mending the budget.

Oberlin Mayor Rick Smith knows the town has never experienced a deficit like this before.

"One thing we don't want to do is sacrifice safety for our citizens, but we have to come to some kind of agreement because we can't continue paying that kind of money out," Smith said.

And making cuts to the town's police department is just one way Smith hopes to save money, but Haynes believes this is the wrong way to do it.

"We're taking cuts now. They're trying to cut our insurance as far as employees having to pay 30 percent when full-time employees were paying nothing. And he's (Smith's) trying to drop 401K plans and police retirement which is illegal," Haynes said.

But Mayor Smith said the town is currently paying $42,000 each month for the police department and cuts need to be made. But how did a town the size of Oberlin get into so much debt when just two years earlier, the town was experiencing a half-million-dollar surplus?

"There was an audit done ... a lengthy audit and the conclusion to the audit brought up some things that were not being handled right in the front office and it has not been dealt with," Haynes said.

Haynes spoke about the "findings" in Oberlin's finance report, one in particular where the responsibilities of the utility clerk weren't being handled properly.

That audit stated a manila folder was found in the utility clerk's money drawer containing cash that should have been deposited.

"Hopefully, somebody from there will step in and put a guided light on which direction we need to go," Haynes said.

Smith said a lot of factors have contributed to the deficit and knows something needs to be done immediately.

"I can't control what people say," Smith said. "I listen to the public, to the people who put me in office. And I look at the financials. I see where we're at financially, and I see where we're headed and there has to be some changes made in order for us to move our town forward."

The town council will hold a public hearing at the next council meeting on Feb. 11 at 6 p.m.

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