The Shreveport City Council adopted the 2018 city budget on Tuesday, December 12. In this process four significant votes were taken.
The first was to fund a five percent pay raise to city employees with an annual salary under $75 thousand dollars a year.
The second was to reduce the proposed funding of the Shreveport Caddo Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) by $195 thousand dollars.
The third was to appropriate $150 thousand dollars for a economic disparity study.
The fourth was to fund $150 thousand dollars to pay the 3% health insurance increase in 2018 for city employees.
The employee pay raise is the first overall raise for city employees since 2007. The vote was unanimous.
The decrease in the MPC’s proposed funding level was the direct result of the MPC Financial Sustainability Studies. This report concluded appropriate funding of this separate government entity be 75% by the city and 25% by the Parish.
Dollar wise, this formula equated to $400 grand from the Parish.
In 2017 the Parish chipped in $217 thousand to the MPC. The 2018 budget proposed by parish administrator Woody Wilson had a $230 thousand dollar line item for the MPC. On a motion by Commissioner Mario Chavez, this funding was set at $200 thousand dollars for 2018. The vote was unanimous.
The proposed 2018 city budget included the 2017 funding level of $1,083,400 for the MPC. The motion to reduce this amount by $195 thousand made by Councilman Oliver Jenkins passed 5 to 2. Councilman Jeff Everson and Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch voted “no”.
The net result of the commission and council votes is a $212 thousand dollar combined 2018 budget cut for the MPC from the 2017 funding levels.
Councilman Willie Bradford proposed funding of $300 thousand dollars for an economic disparity study. A motion was made by Council chair James Flurry to reduce this funding to $150 thousand dollars.
The purpose of such a study is to provide documentation that would support quotas on public contracts for minority disadvantaged businesses versus goals. With supporting studies, courts in other parts of the nation have upheld quotas. Currently the city has a Fair Share Program that sets goals, not quotas.
Several council members expressed their hope the additional funding needed for the study would be provided by the parish, the school board, and/or economic development groups.
The disparity study funding passed 5 to 2. Voting against the study were Councilmen Michael Corbin and Oliver Jenkins.
The motion to pay the health insurance increase was the subject of extended (and confusing) discussion. Concerns were raised that an expected 2019 health insurance increase would lead to a substantial net increase to city employees without an additional budget subsidy. The administration argued that the subsidy will insure a full 5% pay raise not reduced by the premium increase.
This motion passed 5 top 2. Councilmen Everson and Jenkins voted against this measure.
The votes on the MPC budget cut, the disparity study and the health insurance subsidy were interesting from the perspective of future politics.
Everson, Jenkins and Corbin are termed out in 2018. Rumor has it that Lynch will run for Barbara Norton’s house seat. Norton, who is termed out, is expected to run for Lynch’s seat.
Flurry intends to seek a second term. His district has almost an even split of white and black voters.
Councilman Jerry Bowman and Bradford are expected to run again for the Council. Both represent predominantly black districts.
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