Some budget raises raise hackles

Television, or in some cases Facebook, not only can be entertaining but on occasion can be informative. From our rockering position this Tuesday past, we learned much from viewing our latest city council cometogether. 

We thought it was fun to see the group of five (although only four were present this night) finally get our hometown’s budget onto the books as official. It may have taken months of hagglin’, haranguin’ and harrumphin’, but by golly it got done. But there was one dissenting voice among the crowd.

During comments at meeting’s end, Councilperson Pam Bloxom explained why she alone pushed the “no” button when the votes were cast. Her prepared statement, and apparent opposition, centered on raises granted to a certain few in addition to those given to deserving worker bees, police officers and firefighters.

Apparently Bloxom wasn’t on board with a four percent pay hike for council members, a percentage uptick to what she said was the highest pay to a public body in our parish. Her figures show council paychecks at $1,200 monthly compared to Webster Parish police jury members who receive $1,100 a month and school board members’ who take home $600 monthly.

These particular raises, which are scheduled to go into effect in January when new electees take over, didn’t set well with the District E retiring rep. “Our councilmen receive the largest compensation and represent the fewest constituents,” she said in her statement. 

What she didn’t say was the current council approved what the next council, and mayor, will be paid and it surely isn’t based on performance of this fivesome. Maybe the price (pay) hike is designed as an incentive for improvement. With three members running for another term against pretty stiff competition, there might need to be some incentive.

Bloxom mentioned in her statement that these raises were included even though a freeze had been put on projects and purchases of major equipment during budget discussions. Now it looks like a 2023 city council and mayor will be the ones to initiate the great thaw (if there is one) with this new budget.

But, what we found rather interesting, was a proposal made at the conclusion of the statement. Bloxom suggested an ordinance or provision mandating council persons be in attendance at regular meetings before receiving pay. We’re not sure, but if there were such a law already on the books our city might be boocoodles of bread ahead in the bank. Who says absenteeism can’t be profitable.

Speaking of bank dough, while we congratulate this council for getting a budget passed, we wonder aloud if the word “balanced” was ever included in the conversations. We ask only because figures we remember from past conversations and news articles seem a little off kilter. But, we failed math and economics at our alma mater, HK College.

Please feel free to correct us, but memory has our city showing budget figures of somewhere around $37.5 million in anticipated 2022-23 revenues and about $41.7 million in projected same period expenditures. Either we have these amounts back’erds or somebody’s about as balanced as Ron White after midnight. But, what’s a four million buck underfall among friends. 

If we’re wrong, give us 100 lashes with a wet noodle. If the numbers are correct, we’d like to suggest our city figurers join that elite group known as Congress. You know, the bunch that specializes in deficit spending. Oh, wait. Is it really a deficit if one spends someone else’s (taxpayer) money?