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Crowley mayor warns of consequences if council fails to pass budget by Aug. 31 deadline

Crowley City Hall.JPG
Posted at 2:05 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 22:39:33-04

CROWLEY, La. — Crowley Mayor Tim Monceaux is warning his department heads about a possible spending freeze on certain purchases if the city council fails to pass a budget by the end of the month.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Monceaux said that if a final budget is not approved by the city council by Aug. 31, then on Sept. 1, the city will be required by law, to operate at 50% of last year’s approved budget until a fiscal year 2020-2021 budget is adopted.

The agenda for a special council meeting called for Wednesday night made no mention of the city's budget. Councilman Jeff Cavell made a motion to amend the agenda to consider a resolution to introduce the proposed budget for the next fiscal year and to hold a public hearing on Aug. 31. The motion needed to pass by a unanimous vote; however, only two council members voted yes.

Monceaux states that the aforementioned spending freeze would apply to purchases like vehicles, equipment, and other large ticket items for each of the city’s departments. He added that he would also have to make drastic spending cuts and even furlough some city employees.

In April, the mayor announced that the city was forced to lay off 15 city employees and cut hours for others because of the more than $1 million shortfall that the city is facing.

According to the Crowley Post-Signal, the council failed to adopt a resolution fixing the date of a public hearing to consider the adoption of the budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 during its Revenue and Finance Committee meeting last week.

City Councilman Clint Cradeur tells KATC that the first draft of the budget should have been presented to the council in July.

Cradeur says he voted to postpone the public hearing to give the mayor time to meet and discuss the budget with the council and department heads.

“The mayor should have met with department heads in June,” said Cradeur. “Now it's Aug. 19 and the department heads and council members still have not discussed their needs with the mayor.

"The budget was prepared without council or department heads’ input," he adds. "Now it's up to the mayor to present a balanced budget that considers realistic revenue projections and expenditures that all parties involved agree on."

Councilman Brad Core says that it was revealed during the meeting that the budget presented to the council was prepared solely by the City Clerk Erin Cradeur without input from department heads and based on the current budget with minor adjustments.

According to Core, significant changes were not addressed in the proposed budget, particularly the $5 million in planned upgrades to the recreation facility and related revenue/expenses.

He said the fire department also expressed their need for funding to purchase several new fire trucks and provided prices to the council for review relative to the upcoming budget.

Core adds that a trend analysis of all sources of revenues also had not been performed or presented to the council to determine if any increases or decreases are warranted.

Councilwoman Kim Stringfellow says that council voted in March to hire a CPA, but that the CPA did not participate in the budget meetings this year.

"We rely on our department heads to let us know what they need to properly perform their job duties, especially the fire and police departments for matters of public safety," said Stringfellow. "The department heads did not participate in the budget meetings."

Here is the full statement from Monceaux:

It is necessary for me to place you on notice of an approaching deadline of August 31st to adopt a final budget for fiscal year 2020-2021. If a final budget is not approved by the City Council on or before August 31st, then effective September 1st, the City will be required, by law, to operate at 50% of last year’s approved budget until a fiscal year 2020-2021 budget is adopted. Therefore, operating at 50% of last year’s budget forces me to impose a spending freeze to suspend certain purchases including vehicles, equipment, and other large ticket items for your departments. Consequently, should the City Council fail to act in the coming weeks and not pass a budget for fiscal year 2020-2021, it will force me to impose drastic spending cuts, and, as a last resort, employees will be furloughed.

Monceaux continues to work from his home as he recuperates from a diagnosis of COVID-19.

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