The honeymoon may be over for Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins. And, for that matter, the Shreveport City Council as well.
The new leadership at city hall has only been in office since Dec. 29. Hope it was fun while it lasted.
Perkins’ proposed $18 monthly “Clean City User Fee” is as popular as stacked-up garbage. Actually, much less popular.
The new mayor’s inauguration gift from former Mayor Ollie Tyler’s administration was a bloated budget. And major problems in the sanitation department.
The mayor has said the $14 million generated annually from the fee would fund raises for sanitation workers to keep them from moving to private operators, and would replenish the city’s financial reserve.
The 2019 city budget anticipates spending $5 million of the 2018 city financial reserve of $8 million. The mayor says credit rating agencies, which determine the city’s cost of borrowing, require a reserve of at least 8 percent of the general operating budget, or $18 million minimum.
The amount of reserves is a major component of the city’s credit rating.
The sanitation department struggled in 2018 with having sufficient drivers and workers. Often, expensive temp agency labor was necessary.
Perkins is to be commended for tackling both of these problems early on. But politically he may be walking into a mine field.
The garbage situation could continue, with expensive overtime and temporary workers. But this is a poor solution.
The diminished city reserve is a big wolf at the door.
Spending reserves for operating costs is like raiding the family piggy bank to pay the electric bill.
Any major drop in city revenues and/or major unbudgeted city revenue needs could put Shreveport in a bankruptcy spiral.
Perkins can not be faulted for recognizing the need for substantial reserves. And his concern over a lowered municipal credit rating are justified.
As with any city, municipal bond funding is a necessary evil to pay for major capital improvements.
The cost of needed street repairs, drainage remediation and capitol improvements such as a new police station are staggering. Additional borrowing for these basic services is a given.
Perkins took office with an overwhelming mandate for change.
Whether or not that campaign love will survive his “Clean City User Fee” is an open question. And it could be a litmus test for the remainder of his term.
Two of the three incumbents openly endorsed Perkins (Jerry Bowman, Jr. and Willie Bradford). So did newcomers Levette Fuller and John Nicholson.
Euphoria and excitement about the new administration and council marked the first meetings of the council.
The mood of the council will most likely be quite different at the Tues. meeting when the user fee is to be introduced. And probably at the Friday work session as well.
Out of political courtesy, the council should vote to allow the introduction of the fee ordinance. But after that, one can expect much debate and probably discontent.
Needless to say, there will be much public discussion on this issue in the upcoming days.
(This article was published in The Shreveport Times on Sunday, January 20, 2019)