SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - In her first sit-down interview since unveiling her 2018 budget proposal, Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler says her plan calls for spending more than $4 million for pay raises that haven't been seen in more than a decade.
Still, she adds, her budget stays conservative.
"The budget is aligned with the needs, and the needs are aligned with the strategic plan and the plan is working."
The $491.4 million spending plan includes a 5 percent pay increase for all employees who earn less than $75,000 a year, a move that would cost the city an additional $1.7 million a year.
"I did ask my staff to go back and look at the last time they got a raise this significant, and it was 2003," Tyler said.
"I think this just really validates the fact that they are doing a good job."
For civil service employees, it's a 2 percent longevity increase and an additional 3 percent raise on base pay, for a total increase of 5 percent, which will cost the city an additional $2.9 million annually.
The pay raise proposal drew praise from the Shreveport Police Officers Association.
Tyler said the raises for police and firefighters are a validating reward, not an incentive.
"I don't see a correlation between pay and how first responders respond to the needs and the safety and security of our people," the mayor said.
"I think these people put their lives on the line every day despite what the pay is. I think the pay simply validates the appreciation that we have for law enforcement and for our first responders."
Tyler's budget also calls for $1 million to buy 25 police patrol units.
An additional $100,000 is being requested to fund overtime for patrol officers.
And fire and police employees will get back a clothing allowance deducted since 2014. That allowance will be double the $200 they currently receive.
The budget proposal also calls for a million-dollar aerial ladder truck for the Fire Department. The city will pay $600,000 of that; the rest would come from an insurance claim.
Also, unlike previous years, all $8.3 million in the Streets Special Revenue fund will go directly to street repairs throughout the city instead of filling any gaps in the general fund, Tyler promised.
"We're going to have those funds go directly to improve our streets and our drainage and sidewalk repairs, so that's good news for us."
Other highlights Tyler's spending proposal include:
- Water and sewer repairs, in accordance with a federal consent decree, will continue in 2018 with approximately $200 million in projects underway or expected to ramp up next year.
- In working to create more solvent retirement systems, the city will pay $831,800 in additional pension costs.
Tyler credits a one-year freeze in hiring for non-critical positions, an increase in state EMS funding from Medicaid expansion and more sales tax revenue than the previous two years as the impetus for freeing up several million dollars to provide the pay raises.
"We're looking at probably $300,000 more per month in the last few months over what we were receiving last year," Tyler said of the increased sales tax revenue.
Her budget still must be considered by the City Council.
"I'm hoping that City Council members will feel the same way. They have to also be partners in our efforts to do what we're doing."
A public hearing on the 2018 budget proposal is set for Nov. 14.
City Council members must approve a 2018 budget by Dec. 15.