JENNINGS — The Jennings City Council's proposed budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year includes $2.8 million earmarked for capital improvement projects throughout the city.
The budget also includes a continued 2 percent cost-of-living increase for all full-time city employees. Raises for the mayor and council are not included in the pay plan.
"After two years in office, we have successfully completed many beautification projects and planning many more," Mayor Henry Guinn said. "The general fund has increased $3.6 million under my watch as a result of cutting costs and generating new revenue and I intend to spend $2.8 million this year in capital outlay."
The plans include new roads, park upgrades, drainage work, continued installation of new electronic water meters, a new fire truck, police vehicles and more.
"These aren't pet projects or pork," Guinn said. "We have to have a new fire truck for economic development. We have to annex the Interstate 10 corridor. We have to spend money on the roads. We need a pavilion for the kids to play basketball and stay off the streets. These are sound fundamental projects that will help and benefit, not just the city, but the parish and the thousands of tourists that come in to the city to the Gator Chateau and other areas."
The City Council introduced the proposed budget Tuesday. It will meet at 5:30 p.m. June 25 to approve the plan before the new fiscal year begins July 1.
"We are very excited about the new budget because of the capital outlays," financial advisor and former mayor Greg Marcantel said. "There is money for street overlays and drainage and employees will receive raises."
The largest expense will be $750,000 to install an additional 2,100 new electronic water meters. The project is the second phase of a three-year project to replace existing meters. About 80 percent of the total project is expected to be completed by June 2020.
The new meters will allow for more accurate and efficient readings, a quicker billing process, automated shutoffs and will reduce manpower hours needed to read the meters.
Improvements are also expected to continue at the Marcus Cain Park on Peters Street.
The council recently awarded a $324,600 bid to Acadiane Renovations of Franklin to continue the project.
The city budgeted $325,000 for the project, which will include adding a covered basketball pavilion.
Plans for the pavilion include a 140-by-120 covered structure with multiple basketball goals. Concrete parking that ties into the handicapped accessible restrooms will also be included in the project,
Lewis Architecture of Welsh is overseeing the project.
The budget also includes:
$600,000 in asphalt street overlays throughout the city.
$550,000 for a drainage improvement project to alleviate flood problems from La. 97 to Sherman Street.
$530,000 for a new fire truck.
$360,000 for remodeling of the exterior of the public safety building, which houses the police and fire departments.
$60,000 for new fencing around the city pool and park area and to paint the exterior building.
$45,000 for new electrical wiring, drainage work and a parking area for the ball field at Franklin Park.
$50,000 for new concrete parking at the north side of the North Cutting Park.
Guinn said about $60,000 will be spent to update the city's municipal codes of ordinances and historic district codes.
The municipal codes were adopted in 1974 and many are outdated and need to be addressed, he said.
"We need to review the current charter as we know it and bring it up to standards," Guinn said. "Times have changed since the ‘70s, but we haven't changed how we handle the situations."
City Attorney Kevin Millican said many sections need to be amended or deleted because they are old and outdated, or simply no longer apply, including an ordinance requiring all bicycles to be tagged and licensed. Others addressing door-to-door solicitors, grass maintenance and abandoned vehicles are also outdated.
"The city has been talking about this for years but it has been put off so many times because it is so massive," Marcantel said. "We now have money in the budget to get it done, but it will take time."
The city will work with Municode to review and revise the municipal codes. The process is expected to take 18-24 months to complete and will include input from the council and public, Guinn said.
As part of the process, the city will also work with Architect Southwest to update its historic district codes to allow investors to receive tax credits for rehabilitating buildings in the downtown historic district.
"This will give local and outside investors an opportunity to revitalize and invest in Jennings and receive tax credits for doing so," Guinn said.
Unlike previous budgets, residents will not see increases in water or sewer rates or solid waste collections. There will be an increase in fees and charges for taps and installation of meters for new construction.