St. Landry

Oct 20, 2011 11:44 PM by Shawn Kline

Time is ticking on Washington budget crisis

"I wouldn't mind cutting an hour or two per day," Raynold Soileau said.

Soileau works at the Town of Washington Museum. Everyday he's surrounded by history but times are changing in the Town of Washington and it's getting harder to keep places like the museum and the library open.

"The museum is a life line to our town," Soileau said.

Soileau is one of the town's workers in to speak up after more talk of shutting down public departments at Council meeting Thursday night.

In June, Council was told of a budget crisis which could leave the town bankrupt in the matter of months.

"Nothings been done." Rand Speyrer said. "The past two meetings the council said they were coming up with serious recommendations to address the problem and submitting it to the mayor. No action has been taken to date."

Rand Speyrer is wondering when, or if, Town Council will make some changes in the checkbook.

According to a local CPA firm, if the town keeps spending the way it is, Washington will be bankrupt by New Years' Day.

There's also another concern: Mayor Joe Pitre has been absent the last two meetings.
Pitre is currently running a campaign for State Representative District 40. According to the town, Pitre is "on vacation all week."

The last time the mayor was present at a council meeting, he left early and didn't seem too concerned about the town's spending.

"I feel comfortable and confident that we're in better shape than other towns." Pitre said in September.

He called the town's financial situation "a far cry from bankruptcy." According to Pitre, much of the deficit will be made-up for during the winter when the town's gas lines begin pumping heat into cold homes.

Over the past year, Washington has seen its savings account dwindle from over $700,000 to now, just more than $200,000. According to councilmembers, the town is dipping into the savings account to help pay for monthly operational expenses.
Council however, has submitted to the mayor recommendations on how to fix the budget in case his theory fails.

"I've seen a schedule where there's four people working the library on any given day." Councilwoman Laura Allegood said. "That's too much."

Councilwoman Allegood says she is considering cutting staff from parks and recreation and at the least, cutting the operating hours of the museum and library.
Some residents suggested temporarily cutting the museum and the library altogether. However, councilwoman Mona Wilson said that may be too drastic of a measure, citing the need for these resources while school is in session.

Thursday's council meeting was originally scheduled for Monday but did not meet the requirements for a quorum.
Councilmembers Wilson Doomes and Wilbert Ledet were again absent on Thursday along with Mayor Joe Pitre.

So far, neither Mayor Pitre or the council have taken any actions to amend the budget.

"We gave the mayor the respect of being Chief Administrative Officer of the town," Councilwoman Wilson said. "once he looks at (the recommendations) and if he doesn't do anything, then we'll act as a council."

"I'm hoping they will take action on their own," Speyrer said of the council.

Some councilmembers say if Mayor Pitre doesn't take any actions to amend the budget before the next meeting in November, they may introduce some changes themselves.

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