City sees increase in general fund revenues

The city of Lake Charles finished fiscal year 2017 on a high note with an increase of $5.7 million in general fund revenues and no audit findings to report, auditors told the City Council on Tuesday.

Most of the increase in revenue came from sales tax collections, which totaled nearly $50 million, the report showed. The city also spent more money over the year, with general fund operating expenditures rising 7 percent.

A chunk of the cost increase came from salaries, up 5 percent, or $1.2 million, as a result of pay raises and new hires, said City Finance Director Karen Harrell. 

She said the city has struggled to recruit and retain employees but that wage raises over the past several years have helped fill some of those vacant positions.

The city finished the year with $35 million in its general fund — what Harrell called “really good, solid condition.”

“I feel that we run a pretty efficient ship around here and that we do make wise use of our funds,” she said.

She said the city anticipated finishing the year with more funds than budgeted so it authorized $4 million to be transferred into the 2018 budget. 

Preparing for the audit is a “big task,” she said, especially with changes that took effect in 2017 requiring auditors to complete certain statewide agreed-upon procedures — AUPs — on top of their regular work.

Harrell said the city will now direct its focus on preparing next year’s budget. Mayor Nic Hunter, who took office in July, has had “new ideas for saving money, as well as some innovative ideas for possible new revenue,” she said, and she looks forward to working with him and the council. 

Speaking for auditing firm McElroy, Quirk and Burch, Jason Guillory said the city does “a fantastic job” keeping its finances in order and thanked Harrell and her staff for their cooperation.