Gonzales City Council backtracks, budget debate continues - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Gonzales City Council backtracks, budget debate continues

Gonzales budget meeting (Source: WAFB) Gonzales budget meeting (Source: WAFB)
GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - Throughout the city of Gonzales, the public works department is beginning to lay out Christmas decorations well ahead of the holiday schedule.  The sudden appearance of reindeer is a reminder that five months have passed since the City Council began trying to approve the city's budget.  Now, it looks like Santa's sleigh will be in place at City Hall before the full budget.

"It's sad that we have to continue once again and go into another two weeks before we can come back and vote on it all over again," said Mayor Barney Arceneaux after the latest council meeting. 

The funding problems center on the police department.  Chief Sherman Jackson says he needs money to buy new cars and equipment. Unfortunately, early drafts of the budget made major cuts to the police department.  Because of that, the mayor repeatedly vetoed the proposed budgets.  That put him at odds with the council's majority members Terance Irvin, Timothy Vessel, and Gary Lacombe.  The three councilmen have repeatedly attempted to pass budgets that do not provide the full funding requested by the police department.

While the city leaders eventually compromised and approved the city's general fund budget to allow for day-to-day operation to resume, the capital outlay budget remained stalled.  A capital outlay budget is what is normally used to make long-term equipment purchases like police cars.  

During the last meeting, Irvin voted along with Councilmen Kenneth Matassa and Kirk Boudreaux to pass a proposed increase to the general fund so the Chief could make the needed purchases.  

However, Irvin backed out when it came time for the final vote on Monday.  He, Vessel, and Lacombe struck down the increase and instead proposed another change to the capital outlay budget.  

This latest proposal would give the police department more than $327,000 to purchase equipment.  That is a ten percent increase over last year, but less than the $437,000 the police chief says he needs.  

"We're trying to level off spending so we can concentrate on major projects out there like transportation: improving Highway 30, service roads and other major projects that are out there," said Irvin when asked about his voting.

The council will have two weeks to consider this latest change. Meanwhile, the capital outlay budget is still in limbo and city leaders are pointing fingers.  Irvin, Vessel and Lacombe say the mayor's repeated vetoes are to blame for the hold up.  The mayor says the city can afford to fully fund the Chief's requested budget, and he only issued a veto because he feels the police department deserves to get the funding it needs.

"I told them from the beginning that I was all about law enforcement and watching out for our citizens. What does that mean? Giving them the best equipment that they can have," said Arceneaux. 

All of this is complicated by the fact that both Vessel and Lacombe are facing a recall election on December 6. 

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