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LaFayette council approves 2020-21 fiscal year budget

The city of LaFayette has finally passed its budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, as the LaFayette city council approved it on Monday.

The budget will have a surplus of $21,573.10.

“I would like to point out that the budget is extremely late, but it’s razor-thin,” City Clerk Louis Davidson said. “That’s something that all the council members have talked about. Going into this next budget, we need to look at everything. I know that the mayor [Kenneth Vines] has talked about raising fees, so look at each department and see how each department is being run. Is it efficient? Because I know one thing that citizens are going to bring up, they brought this up when we had the sales tax increase discussion in 2017. They want to make sure that the departments are being run efficiently. Also, realize what we can and can’t do as a city.”

The budget that was presented to the council on Monday was changed during the council meeting, as the council unanimously approved the purchase of a new building for the city’s water distribution workers.

“The situation has got to the point when it rains really hard, water floods the building,” Water Distribution Superintendent Richard Chapman said. “It is just to the point, where I don’t think we should be standing in some water in our breakroom like that. We have critters come in there. It’s just something that needs to be looked at. The ceiling has started to cave in, and that’s where we sit down and eat at. It’s just an unsafe environment.”

Chapman presented two estimates for buildings to the council. The first structure was a wooden building that didn’t possess any of the wirings the facility needed. The second was a steel building that had all the necessary wiring.

The building will be set up on more level ground so water won’t pool inside.

“These guys are working in unsafe conditions out there at the water treatment facility, and it is our responsibility to make sure they are working in the proper safe environment,” Councilmember Toney B. Thomas said.

The council approved the bid of a steel building for $12,875. The new building is the only department head request that was approved for the 2020-21 budget.

“Since we’ve been sitting here on the council this term, in the previous administration, there was a fire truck that went out of service,” Councilmember Terry Mangram said. “I think we really need to wait on these things that we’re bringing up. This fire truck is very important to us also. No one knows how much and how things are until you really need it, and it’s not there. I just want to throw that out there that this repair bill for our fire truck is a substantial bill.”

The city overall will make $2,600,600 from its general revenue. The city’s electric department will bring in the most revenue for the city with a projected total of $865,600.

In an effort to bring in more revenue to the city, Vines sent a letter to each of the council members with his intention to begin the process of the one-cent sales tax increase.

“As you can see, the current 2021 budget is able to operate in the black only because of the elimination of all major project requests and somewhat of a small carryover from the previous year’s budget,” the letter reads. “Please keep in mind that also on the expenditure side, we have already made minor cuts in all departments across the board. In many cases, those cuts are not sustainable because if they continue from year to year, they affect critical needs and infrastructure.”

According to Vines’ letter, the one-cent increase could bring in $250,000 to the city. Vines has brought up the idea of increasing fees for the past few council meetings. Councilmember Shannon Hunter has also brought up the change in fee idea, in order to give the city more money to work on the projects. Councilmember Michael Ellis talked about the increase during his reelection campaign.

“There are things that we face every day. I’m looking at three phases of this, No. 1 I want to make sure that we’re all on board, No. 2 approximately two public hearings to get their input and phase three, come back for a final vote,” Vines said. “There are some things that need to be done and this needs to be done. It’s been a while since we’ve had anything approved. With things going up, we really need this.”

The council will hold a public hearing to discuss the sales tax increase on Monday, June 28 at 5 p.m. CT.

Ellis brought up that he, as the chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee, would like to see more money invested in the department.

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