Vidalia aldermen approve budget, intend to make revisions

Published 12:13am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

VIDALIA — The Vidalia Board of Aldermen passed a $35 million budget Monday for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, saying they intend to make revisions every 30 days.

Vidalia’s budget projects $35.39 million in revenue and $35.33 in expenditures, leaving the city with a surplus of $60,000.

But $83,000 not included in the Vidalia Police Department budget prompted discussion between Alderman Jon Betts and Mayor Hyram Copeland.

After initial budgets estimates were set, each alderman met with their respective department. Betts is assigned to oversee the Vidalia Police Department. Betts said he met with the police department, which requested an additional $83,000.

“I suggest that we do not adopt the budget as is,” Betts said. “We have time to make an actual, correct budget.”

Copeland said he preferred to pass the budget without amendments, making budget changes at a later date.

“You’re going to amend this whole thing for two police cars,” Copeland asked. “Every 30 days we are going to tell departments how much to spend. If we have money for the police cars, then we’ll buy them.”

Assistant Police Chief Bruce Wiley clarified after the meeting that the $83,000 would not be used to purchase two police cars. Instead, the budget addition would pay for a state-mandated computer software upgrade and 20 hours of training per officer, Wiley said.

Copeland said the city’s new approach to budgeting would eliminate the need to pass one comprehensive budget. Instead of departments being told how much to spend for an entire year, he said city departments would receive monthly budget allocations.

Though Betts lobbied for budget revision, city accountant Ashley Anderson said the city would face consequences without an approved budget. State law requires Louisiana government entities to approve a budget by July 1. If the entity fails to meet the deadline, it must operate using 50 percent of its budgeted expenses from the previous year, until a budget is passed.

The budget passed by a 5-1 margin, with Betts voting against it.

Police Chief Arthur Lewis stressed the importance of the $83,000 but said he wasn’t upset about it not being included.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Lewis said. “We hope that the funds will be added in later.”