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City Council adopts $17M budget

Two abstain from otherwise unanimous vote

By a 7-0 vote with two abstentions, the Crowley City Council adopted a balanced, $17 million budget here Friday, just a little more than a day before the current budget expired.
Aldermen Vernon “Step” Martin and Byron Wilridge Sr., both representing Ward 3, abstained during the roll-call vote.
Only Martin spoke out against Mayor Tim Monceaux’s third budget proposal.
After six of the city’s nine counciul members acknowledged that they had assisted the mayor in formulating this latest proposal, Martin asked, “Did y’all address the elephant in the room?”
Clint Cradeur quickly answered, “Yes, several of them.”
But Martin’s specific “elephant” was salaries, particularly the public works crew members whose pay was bumped up to a minimum of $9 per hour under the new budget.
“It’s almost 100 degrees out there and there are persons working for the city out there right now. We have to put things in perspective.”
After a rambling story, the moral of which was equal pay for equal work, Martin turned on the aldermen.
“During the election year everyone coming in said they wanted change,” he said. “This council is two-thirds new and all you’re doing is kicking the can down the road.
“Nine, 10, 11 even 15 dollars an hour isn’t real money these days ... not a living wage.
“The elephant is still in the room.”
Cradeur defended the budget proposal.
“Alderwoman (Kim) Stringfellow and I worked with Mayor Monceaux and his staff for about seven hours going page by page, line item by line item,” Cradeur said. “We made a lot of suggestion and a lot of them have been implemented.
“From the first budget presented to this one, there is a huge difference.”
The alderman ticked off a laundry list of items changed from Monceaux’s original offering, some of those including:
• a part-time employee in Code Enforcement;
• adding overtime —including overtime for Rice Festival — back into the Police Department budget;
• a pay freeze for all employee with the exception of those raised to $9 an hour and Fire Department employees (with three to 23 years of experience) whose pay is raised statutorily.
And on the subject of the $9-per-hour minimum pay, Cradeur added, “I suggested $10, we compromised at $9.”
In conclusion, Cradeur said, “I think Mayor Monceaux has seen the benefit of having a council that wants to help and be more involved.”
Projected revenues of $17 million are offset by projected expenses of $16 million for fiscal year 2020, which began at the stroke of midnight Saturday.
That leaves $1 million for any contingencies that might occur during the year.
In other action during the special meeting, the council approved a lease agreement with the ASSIST Agency for space in the Enterprise Center.
ASSIST will continue to pay $2,248.76 per month for 3,121 square feet of office space.
Cradeur pointed out that occupants of the Enterprise Center do not pay for utilities, janitorial, maintenance, or other amenities.
“This figure is pretty much in line with what ASSIST pay per square foot in Vernillion and Jeff Davis Parishes,” Brad Core said.

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