Baker, LA (NBC33) — Baker cannot afford to keep up its services, so residents may be stuck paying the price.
Mayor Harold Rideau presented his budget at Tuesday night's city council meeting, and it includes cuts to the police, fire, and public works departments.
Rideau said he struggled over the last few weeks to close an 11 percent shortfall in a $6.8 million budget.
"When you're budget is 77% salaries, retirement, and health care, you don't have a choice, other than to reduce manpower," he claimed.
Rideau said he closed the gap by not allowing departments to fill empty positions, and by freezing salaries for many city workers. The police department asked for four new cars, but under the proposal, would not get any.
"It's going to begin to have a domino effect, if we don't keep up with our replacement program," police chief Mike Knaps said. "It's kind of like a pay me now, or pay me later."
While the council did not discuss the budget plan, they were aware of the city's financial position. They talked about getting rid of the director of the city's heritage museum, a part-time employee who earns $18,000 a year.
"It's a luxury that at this time, I don't feel like we can afford it," said Councilman Pete Heine. "We got too many necessities that have to be met."
The cuts to the fire department could raise the city's fire rating. That would make everyone's insurance more expensive. The mayor blamed the council in part, for not raising sewer and water rates two weeks prior.
"It's unfortunate that we didn't get the utility increase," Rideau stated. "Had we got even a portion of that increase, it certainly would have helped."
Rideau added that all the cuts might limit residential and commercial growth in the city, but he believes he made the best decisions he could.
"Because the council asked for a balanced budget, and I knew we had to do it," he mentioned. "You know, we were able to do it without laying anyone off."
The council must wait at least two weeks before voting on Rideau's proposal.