LaFayette continues to discuss increasing rates to balance budget

Published 11:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2022

On Thursday, the LaFayette City Council, mayor and several city department heads met for a work session to discuss how the city could use money from State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, a part of the American Rescue Plan intended to help governments respond to and recover from the impacts of COVID-19. Later on in the meeting, the conversation turned toward balancing the city’s budget. Several of the department heads in attendance had voiced the need for money.

City Clerk Louis Davidson said citizens need to understand that the city needs to increase rates for some services because of how it operates.

“They’re paying the same amount for, say, 5,000 gallons of water today that they were in 2011,” he said. “But the chemical that it costs to treat the water, the employees that we’re paying health insurance [for], we’re paying for the employees. All those costs… pipes… all that stuff is expensive. So, I mean, to be quite honest, even if we did not have any project we needed to do, we still need to increase the water rate because we’re running at a deficit right now.”

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Councilmember Terry Mangram said many of the issues the council was dealing with at the meeting were things that should have been dealt with several years ago.

“We’re trying to fix a lot of things all at once, or should I say right now,” he said. “And over time, because we would have received a lot of this stuff a little bit better if it came in stages… we’re going to deal with some backlash here … But I will say, as long as we can show the customers that any increase that we make is beneficial to the city, and when we make these increases, we’re going to take the funds, and we’re going to use them to better the city. If they’re upset about that or anything, I’m sorry.”

Like Davidson, Mangram said increasing rates for services was necessary for the continued operation of the City of LaFayette.

Superintendent Ann Gleaton of the city water plant asked the council if it had any idea when the budget would be approved. She said the city was going into the fifth month of the fiscal year and that she needed equipment she was waiting to have approved.

“We’re working at this thing, believe me,” Mangram said. “It ain’t been easy, and it ain’t been that there’s not enough time being put in.

Louis and I have worked behind the scenes a lot. We’ve talked to you guys a lot, and we still ain’t through talking to you guys. I said here back in September that I wanted to see the budget passed at least by the end of October.”

“You didn’t say what year,” Ellis joked.

“Well, let me just ask you this,” Gleaton said. “If I’ve got to have to have something, can I just get your approval to go ahead and purchase it if it’s in my budget?”

“If it’s things we’ve got to have to operate this city, we’re not going to sit back and say, ‘Oh, nope. Can’t do it,’” Mangram said. ‘I ain’t talking about we need a new car when the car’s still running. I’m talking about things like that that you were talking about. If it’s going to improve the water, you probably should have already ome to us and said, ‘Hey, look. We’ve got to do something.’”

Davidson said the city had made significant progress on the budget and that he’d be shocked if it wasn’t done in the following month. He said that what would make the budget work is increasing rates on services or cutting services.

At the end of the meeting, LaFayette Mayor Kenneth Vines said that in three months, it will be time to work on the 2023 budget.