The last council meeting was well attended by many citizens.
The hot topic was funding for sanitation worker pay raises and the city reserves. Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins had proposed an $18-per-month “Clean City User fee” to address both financial needs.
The only agreement reached by the seven council members was the need for more money. But whose pocket to raid and for how much was not decided.
To many in the audience, the very thought of a garbage pick-up fee evoked of horror. And that’s putting it nicely. Sorta like requiring the sacrifice of a first-born child.
The sanitation director’s report was dismal.
He needs 64 garbage trucker drivers. He has 38. The city pay scale is at least $3 per hour below market.
He also needs a minimum of 45 laborers. Rarely can he fill these $10.60-per-hour slots. His crews are forced to work many hours of overtime and use expensive temp workers.
To make matters worse, the council was advised that the 2019 general fund subsidizes garbage pickup to the tune of $8.4 million per year. This sum includes direct and indirect costs.
The report on the city reserves was just as bleak.
In the perfect world this sum would be $18 million. This amount would ensure that the city’s bond rating will not be lowered.
Currently, the reserve fund is $3.1 million. The 2019 budget uses almost $5 million of the 2018 year-end reserves.
Council members discussed many ideas.
These included different charges for households, commercial users and apartment buildings. Additional charges for bulk street pickup of trash/garbage were also suggested.
Discontinuance of recycling and application of the $2.50-per-household fee for garbage pickup was another suggestion.
There was universal agreement that any user fee ordinance should provide relief for the very needy. This could include expansion of the water bill assistance program to include any pickup fee. Currently this program costs approximately $200,000 annually.
Other ideas included charging different fees for different neighborhoods or setting fees on the basis of assessed property values.
The council agreed to keep the ordinance on track for a Feb. 12 vote, subject to amendments by the council. Mayor Perkins advised the council members he was willing to work with them on the proposed fee.
The good news is that the council members, for the most part, swallowed the big bullet that garbage pick-up fees are necessary. Shreveport is one of the last mid-size cities without such a fee.
The council also acknowledged that the city’s reserves must be increased for financial stability and its bond ratings. The concern over the small reserve fund was shared by all.
The open dialogue between council members , Mayor Perkins and his staff was constructive. It was remarkedly refreshing.
Perkins gave many answers. He promised to quickly provide additional information requested. He confirmed his “home work” list before the meeting ended.
Perkins was clear and consistent in his message.
Sanitation workers needed a pay raise and soon. The city reserves represent a crisis that must also be promptly addressed. And he was willing to negotiate on the fee and funding options.
Perkins said his duties to Shreveport citizens, and the city itself, made both of these high priorities. The council also acknowledged these.
All in all, it was a good day for government in Shreveport. Not a happy, everybody satisfied day. In fact, no one left the council chambers floating on a cloud.
But the democratic process worked. And it worked well.