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Lake Charles officials offer insight into city's finances

Last Modified: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 9:51 PM

By Justin B. Phillips / American Press

For the most part, the city’s annual financial review of operations only shows where the city stands financially at the end of the year. During Tuesday’s City Council agenda meeting, the review was broken down even further, and some insight was given on how the city balances its books.

The annual review, which ended Sept. 30, recorded the city having a $535,584 surplus for the fiscal year. Karen Harrell, city finance director, said the surplus was not entirely the result of increased revenues. It was also the result of a few financial transfers.

“It wasn’t all by itself,” Harrell said during the meeting. “It resulted from having other sources.”

Harrell said the city was anticipating not being able to cover the expenses for the year so supplements for the budget were created from two other sources — $887,000 from the Riverboat Gaming Fund and $750,000 from the Employee Health Insurance Fund after the general fund received a refund of health insurance premiums. This type of process isn’t unique for the city. A financial move similar to the Riverboat Gaming Fund transfer was made in 2010. The health insurance transfer has been used for the past two years.

The city’s general fund expenditures and transfers came in $665,000 less than the projected amount. The operating revenues for the general fund were $636,000 more than originally estimated.

With all of the transfers into the general fund, the city ended up with the surplus of $535,584. Still, the city’s revenues continue to fall short when it comes to covering its operating expenditures, evident in the $2.3 million deficit included in the adopted budget for the 2014 fiscal year.

Mayor Randy Roach also spoke during the agenda meeting in reference to the financial review. He said the public should keep the budgets in the right perspective.

“Budgets are just budgets,” Roach said. “What really matters is what happens at the end of the year.”

Harrell went on to mention a number of issues the city is facing within the workforce. While the city operates at staffing levels below 2010 authorizations, public safety employees last received a cost-of-living raise in 2009. Other employees haven’t had the raise since 2008. Harrell also said the city is struggling with providing a competitive pay scale.

“Our pay scales are considerably lower than other agencies in the area,” Harrell said. She added that this could be problematic for the city in terms of recruitment and retention as the anticipated economic boom gets closer.

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