POSTED: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 5:00am
UPDATED: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 5:04am
Gonzales, LA (NBC33) — The Gonzales City Council presented a budget that is just as controversial as the last one. The city has operated without a budget for three weeks, but it could be a lot longer before it has a spending plan in place.
"At this time, it's a very good possibility that I will veto it once again," stated Mayor Barney Arceneaux.
The council presented its second attempt at a budget during Monday's regular meeting. The one part of the initial budget proposal that made Arceneaux and so many residents so upset did not change: $800,000 to fund a study about putting a frontage road along Interstate 10 between LA 44 and LA 30.
"As far as I know, they're maintaining the $800,000," Arceneaux said. "They've not told me anything different. And I will continue doing what I'm doing, which I feel is better for us."
Arceneaux vetoed the first budget  passed by the council in May. Gonzales' fiscal year began June 1. Since then, the city has been running on half the amount prescribed by last year's budget.
Some people feel there is no need for a frontage road. Some are against it because Councilman Terance Irvin's family owns land in the area and would likely benefit financially from the road. Others criticize the idea because, to pay for it, Irvin, Gary Lacombe, and Timothy Vessel took money away from the police and fire departments. They maintain that it would spur economic growth in the city.
"I'm not going to take money from public safety to put on a road that I really know nothing about," Arceneaux stated.
The police department  replaced half its fleet last year, so Chief Sherman Jackson wants to replace the other half this year. He claims the nine cars and two motorcycles are six or seven years old, and all have close to 100,000 miles on them.
"We need something that's dependable," he mentioned. "The cars that I'm asking to get rid of, they aren't so dependable. So ,you know, hopefully the council will see it my way, and give me the tools that I need for my guys."
Jackson said he was not completely surprised that his request was not met in the latest budget proposal. He feels unsure if the money will be put back in his budget before the plan comes up for a vote.
"When we introduce something like that, if there are any discussion, it needs to happen (immediately)," he said. "But it didn't."
He claimed he would be willing to cut back if needed, but felt there was no justification for only giving him half the money he asked for.
"It happened to us before, where we all had to tighten up our belt, because we were going through a recession," he recalled. "I think everybody in the country was going through it. So we know how to, okay? But that's not the issue today."
After Mayor Arceneaux vetoed the last budget, he met with some of the council members to attempt to negotiate a solution.
"They were good meetings," he said. "No doubt, they were good meetings, but I mean, it didn't amount to a whole lot, because they never did say anything else or anything different, that they wanted to make any kind of changes, whatsoever."
There were a few changes from the original budget proposal  to this one. The mayor chose not to spend $170,000 on a new dog park, and the fire department removed a $112,000 request for new breathing equipment.
If he has to veto another budget proposal, Arceneaux says he will have the support of the people.
"I've not received not one call from anyone, not one constituent whatsoever, that asked me to do anything any different," he claimed. "Not one."
The council will vote on this proposal at its next regular meeting, on July 7. Members can continue to amend the budget up to the last minute. If they choose not to get rid of the road study, it appears likely that another month will pass without a budget.