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Alexandria mayor says city council, administration must work together to resolve budget conflicts

Published: Jun. 10, 2021 at 4:22 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 6:29 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Alexandria Mayor Jeff Hall said during a news conference Thursday morning that the city council needs to put city employees and residents first and must work with the administration to create and approve a balanced budget.

The city has been operating on 50 percent of last year’s budget since May 1, which is almost six weeks now, as the council and the administration are still waiting for a judge to rule if the amended budget violates the city charter. A decision is expected to be made in court on June 21.

Since the budget is operating on 50 percent of last year’s budget, that means that drainage projects and a two percent pay increase for all city employees that were placed in the budget for the 2021-2022 year are on hold.

During the press conference, Mayor Hall said, “My focus is on finding solutions to the challenges facing this city and to me, that means everyone needs to set aside their egos, opinions and personal agendas.”

The mayor said that he was disappointed that the council voted to reject a resolution made at the last council meeting on June 1 by District 5 councilman Chuck Fowler that tried to get both sides to work together on the budget issue.

“At this point, battle lines appear to be clearly drawn with one vocal council member steering four other members down an ill-advised path that creates animosity and discourages the selfless teamwork needed to work together for our community,” said the mayor.

Mayor Hall also claimed that when the council amended the presented budget to include an additional $2 million for police salaries, it caused the budget to be unbalanced.

“I am 100 percent in favor of increasing pay for our police officers,” said Mayor Hall. “We’re not going to magically correct the problem simply by allocating a large sum of unsustainable money to a line in the budget.”

The administration said they are working to increase benefits for officers as part of ongoing negotiations with the union for a new contract. The mayor added that they have agreed to create, “the most generous incentive program in the state of Louisiana” and will now focus on the payment portion of the contract.

Recently, News Channel 5 obtained the pay study done for the Alexandria Fire and Police Department that compares the salaries in Alexandria to surrounding agencies. The results showed that Alexandria’s police officers are underpaid and recommended at least a 2.5 percent increase in salaries.

The mayor said, “To the critics who said that we don’t need a study to know pay is too low, I agree. We didn’t need the study to confirm that but we did need a study to analyze the current market and establish a common baseline for both the city and the union to work together to craft a fair compensation plan that will meet our needs now and in the future.”

Mayor Hall said that he accepts the results of the pay study and will move forward with them.

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