What’s the root of Welsh’s money woes?
The claim of a $300,000 budget deficit in Welsh raises many questions.
The Jennings Daily News has reported on several occasions the concerns regarding that supposed deficit over the past several months. It started when aldermen approved a hiring and pay increase freeze that the mayor later acknowledged was due to the deficit. Alderman Bob Owen then read a prepared statement at one meeting calling for consideration of a half-cent sales tax address the deficit. He also said the deficit was due to the fact that the Welsh Police Department had suspended Traffic Enforcement Detail (TED) when Chief Marcus Crochet took office in January (TED has since hit the road again).
Since its inception, TED has been a big money maker for Welsh. The proceeds are split between the police department and the town’s general fund.
But officials and Welsh’s auditor’s assertions that the shortfall is in the WPD’s budget doesn’t really tell the whole story. Especially since the auditor noted that the town itself has been losing money over the past three years.
On paper, the WPD has a $1 million budget but for the current fiscal year, Crochet only approved a little over $700,000 for operating costs, which include salaries, vehicle maintenance, equipment purchases, etc. The extra $300,000 that was included was based on projections from previous years’ TED revenues. Crochet did not ask for those funds to be added in. Alderman Allen Ardoin said he did not vote to include that amount in the budget, and no other alderman said differently.
Many have pointed out that the $300,000 never existed in the first place; it was only a projection, as are most revenues and costs in municipal budgets.
But the WPD’s budget is separate from the town’s general fund. If the $300,000 projected TED money was scratched out of the police budget today, it wouldn’t hurt that budget, because the operating funds would still be there – the $700,000-plus Crochet originally approved. Furthermore, the WPD’s budget does not provide for salaries or pay raises for city employees outside the realm of police work. So why was the hiring freeze attributed to the lack of TED action?
The money problem is not in the WPD. The problem is in the town’s general fund. That fund has depended on TED money to offset costs over the past several years.
The focus of this money problem needs to move away from Crochet and the WPD and to the town. After all, TED is not a mandatory program for any WPD officer. Cops volunteer to work TED during their off-duty hours. True, right now, cops are able and willing to work TED. But what if officers choose to enjoy their off time instead of working extra hours? What if a variety of issues leave the department shorthanded and unable to work TED, such as illness, injuries, or more pressing matters within Welsh itself? The WPD is not required to bring in TED money; those funds are extra and the revenues only projected.
There are some items that are not projected, though: salaries for town employees, for example. The town knows it has to have those funds on hand. So why is it depending on pretend money to pay a real salary? Why is the general fund not holding its weight yet looking to be saved by police?
Short URL: http://www.jenningsdailynews.net/?p=23868