VINTON — In a special meeting here Thursday night, the Vinton Council adopted the proposed budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2019.
CPA Phillip Abshire Jr. reported that while the budget is a “very tight budget,” it does include a 50-cent hourly increase for all Town employees. There is also a 50-cent increase in both water and sewer rates, bringing monthly charges up to $21 for each utility.
Projected revenues stand at $7.04 million with expenditures at a little over $7.5 million. In an interview Friday, Mayor Kenneth Stinson said funds are available in special accounts for transfer to make up for the projected shortfall.
Stinson outlined the “most aggressive capital outlay budget ever” with $2.58 million earmarked for a variety of infrastructure projects and equipment purchases.
More than $460,000 will be spent on fire protection. Those dollars cover $410,000 on a new fire truck, $30,000 on four air packs and eight cylinders, $10,000 on a thermal imaging camera, and $13,000 on five sets of bunker gear.
The Town has set aside $60,000 in streets and alleyways. The funding will repair the Vincent Street Bridge which has been out of service since Hurricane Harvey washed out one of the approaches. Also, $5,000 will be spent on cones and barricades.
The water department will see a $12,500 fencing project designed to protect the shop, equipment, and water wells from tampering. The water and sewer departments will share a new pick-up truck at a cost of $28,000. One-million-dollars has been set aside for sewer improvements.
The Town is also purchasing 500 new digital display electric meters to replace some and keep some in reserve.
Stinson said he hopes to get some some funding from the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury’s Road and Drainage Trust Fund. He said the administration is seeking $314,000 from the CPPJ for the replacement of the N. Horridge Street Bridge. The total cost for the work is projected to be $785,000.
Stinson, who is not seeking another term as mayor, said that while he would love to leave the Town debt free, he thinks it would be a disservice to the community to not consider water and sewer projects to “take Vinton into the future and look at the advantages of borrowing some money at very low interest.” He noted the Department of Environmental Quality has money available for .95 percent interest over 20 years.
“We have very little debt now,” he said. City Hall will be paid off in 2019 and Vinton Public Power Authority bonds are paid off. “But we have aging infrastructure, as every city does.” Meyer and Associates is currently mapping out a sewer and water project for the town to improve collection and capacity in anticipation of a likely population increase.
“It would be healthy debt,” said Stinson. “I’m not talking $50 million in debt. I’m just looking in that direction and looking to the council to see if they would buy into it enough to vote for it.”