As expected, the column “ So Just How Bad Are Shreveport Finances?” elicited many comments and questions from readers.
In no particular order this are addressed in an effort to show “the entire picture.”
The revenue sources for the city in years 2015-2018 have remained relatively stable.
Government taxes and fees have gone up and down from 2008-2017 with an average annual change of .27% or $541,800. These include sales, property and franchise taxes, occupational license fees and gaming revenue.
Property tax revenue declined by an average of $158 thousand per year from 2008-2017. Property millages have declined from 36.65 in 2015 to 35.81 in 2107. Additional mileages will expire this year.
Since 2013, expenditures per capita have steadily increased as the city’s population has decreased. In 2013 it was $960 per person. In 2017 is was $1048 per person.
The net direct debt per capita declined from $1448 in 2014 to $1132 in 2017. This debt does not include water and sewer bonds which are repaid from department revenues. This department is an enterprise fund.
The percentage of the general budget for employee salaries and benefits (67%) is comparable to similar size cities. Although the number of employees has declined the salary percentage has remained constant.
The major driver for this budget share is retirement contributions. Contributions are set by state law for public safety—police and fire. Contributions for police have increased from 9.5% in 2008 to 31.75% in 2017. Contributions for firemen have increased from 12.5% in 2008 to 25% in 2017. Contributions for other city employees have increased from 13.5% in 2008 to 22% in 2017.
In 2014 the city council has addressed the underfunded pension plan liabilities. Changes were made in the retirement age thresholds, a decrease in the benefit multiplier, and increase in the vesting period from 10 to 15 years of service for new employees hired after the 2015 ordinance effective date.
This ordinance also scheduled staggered increases in employer contributions from 13.15% to 29%. A 2016 ordinance amended the schedule of employer contributions to 30% in 2021.
The Employee Retirement System Board of Trustees will re-verify that the city is on track to gradually bring the funding ratio to a non-distressed level.
The audit also noted that the city’s capital asset details were not centrally located nor maintained in a structured format in order to calculate and analyze expenditures per unit.
The International City County Manager Association advises that expenditures should remain relatively stable (in constant dollars), relative to the amount and nature of the assets. A declining ratio between maintenance expenditures and quality of assets may be a sign that the government’s assets are deteriorating . If this is the case, maintenance expenses will increase.
The audit recommended the city develop a centralized tracking system to maintain, manage, and analyze capital assets.
Hopefully, these two columns hit the high and low points of the audit. If a copy of audit is requested, please email the author.