Budget fails to pass … again

By Bonnie Culverhouse

For an unprecedented fifth time, the Minden City Council failed to pass a budget for 2021-2022, causing City Clerk Michael Fluhr to tell them “you are bringing this city to its knees.”

Fluhr said that as of 4:01 p.m. Thursday, September 30 – the close of the 2020-2021 fiscal year – the city began operating at 50 percent of last year’s budget. When that money is gone, the State will be forced step in to take over the city.

“And all major funds already show a deficit of approximately a half-million dollars,” Fluhr continued. “What it means is that, for example, the street department can only use 50 percent of its money to cover potholes.”

Fluhr said he passed the word to Mayor Terry Gardner to tell all departments to make no purchases unless it is an emergency.

“The money goes out the door very fast,” Fluhr said. “I understand what your problem is with the budget. It’s not the money; everybody knows that.”

At past council meetings and budget workshops, remarks were made from District B Councilwoman Terika Williams-Walker that pay raises for two employees were the main reason she was not voting in favor of the budget.

Walker, along with District A Councilman Wayne Edwards and District C Councilman Vincen Bradford consistently voted no when the budget was on the council agenda.

Fluhr went on to ask the council for a reason they are not communicating with one another. He reminded each one that this is the last budget for which they are responsible.

“Your term ends in 2022,” he said. “There is one more budget coming, but if you are not re-elected, then you are gone, and somebody else can handle the problem.

“I urge you, come together and discuss it,” he continued. “You are going to ruin the city and you don’t make any friends with the employees. Sooner or later, the hammer falls and the state is knocking on the door.”

Around 10 Minden residents and one from Sibley came forward during audience comments to ask questions, basically echoing Fluhr’s comments about healing the dissension among the council and mayor.

Minden resident Dennis Myles asked about other city employees who may need or want raises.

“There are other city employees that are receiving raises,” Gardner said. “I consider them substantial raises.”

When asked which employees are receiving raises, Gardner said, “the entire line crew, the entire water crew and the street department. All of those we are bringing up to where we can hire more. That’s all in the budget and was all discussed in workshops.”

Myles pointed out that three years into the current administration, “it’s been one controversy after another. It’s embarrassing, and I think it’s time for it to stop. You’re sabotaging the city. The individual agendas and egos are going to have to be set aside for the greater good for all the citizens.”

He implored the council and mayor to iron out their differences and come to a compromise to take the city forward, as did Randolph Walker.

“I’ve been to the workshops,” Walker said. “All you do is justify the things you don’t do.”

He then addressed the mayor and Bradford.

“What’s going on with you two?” he asked, referring to apparent bickering and disagreements. “Is this a domestic squabble? Me and my wife have problems, but I don’t go out in the street and broadcast it. Nobody wants to hear that. Go kiss and make up.”

Photo by Bonnie Culverhouse: Minden City Clerk Michael Fluhr (foreground) talks to the Minden City Council about the consequences of not passing the budget.