City employees to see cost of living increase

The Ruston City Council held its September meeting Monday night.

By T. Scott Boatright

Employees of the city of Ruston can look forward to a 3.7% cost of living increase after Ruston’s Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 during Monday night’s monthly meeting at City Hall.

City said the budget approved by the City Council was unchanged from the one introduced on Aug. 24. The budget plans for total revenues of $105,081,425, which would be $457,357 (a 6.5% increase) more than the prior fiscal year’s budget of $98.624.068.

The budget also predicts sales tax revenues of $23.4 million, which is up 3.7% from the previous year. 

While expected federal revenues are listed at $4,071,000 less than than the prior fiscal year, revenue from state sources are predicted to be $4,697,000 more and local revenue is listed at $5,831,357 more than the previous fiscal year.

Total operating expenses are budgeted for $69.8 million with that figure including the 3.7% cost of living expense. The new budget expects a total of $112,048,486 in total expenses — $13,484,746 more than the prior fiscal year’s expenses of $98,564,740.

Personnel services are expected to take up the majority of city expenses at 38%, followed by materials and supplies at 28%, operating expenses at 22%, and training and other expenses at 12%.

The budget projects an ending fund balance of $144 million, an increase of more than $47 million from the prior year.

City Finance Director Julie Spier said the budget also includes additional employees the city hopes to fill but are currently vacant.

“I would like to thank Julie and her entire staff,” Mayor Ronny Walker said. “When we have as many projects as we have going on now, and we have as many grants as we have – over the past seven years about $50 million worth, which sounds real easy because it’s supposedly free money — there’s tons of paperwork that goes along with that to do so. To Julie and her entire staff, we say thank you for a job well done in putting this budget together.”

 Spier also gave Ruston’s aldermen good news during her monthly finance report.

“Total sales tax collected for July was $1.8 million, an increase of $85,000 or 4.9% from July of 2021,” Spier said. “General sales tax totaled $1.6 million, up $88,000 from the prior year – a 5.7% increase.”

Ruston’s aldermen also approved an ordinance authorizing the potential leasing of property to Ruston Sports RV Park, LLC, which would allow the use of an approximate 12-acre site east of the Ruston Sports Complex Indoor Building to be used to attract more RV usage to the city, especially during baseball and softball tournaments at the complex as well as Louisiana Tech football games.

“We’re still negotiating the terms of the lease, but the terms will be of benefit to both the company and the city,” said City Attorney Bill Carter. 

Walker lauded the project.

“This is what we like — a project that’s a partnership with a private partner where we provide the land and the private partner does the building at no cost to the city,” Walker said.

“Once the lease is determined as far as length and amount, the city will receive somewhere in the range of the 20% we get now (from RV spots at the sports complex).”

Walker said the spots will include electric, water and sewer hook-ups and will consist of 80-90 spots. There are currently 12 RV spots at the sports complex.

“The exciting thing about it is that with the city being along Interstate 20, we’ll pick up people who are just traveling east or west down I-20 during the week, not just on weekends, meaning extra revenue,” Walker said.

In other business, the City Council moved to appoint Nathan Duplantis, Wyatt Amidon and James State to the Airport Advisory Board for five-year terms and introduced the lease of city property to Origin Bank. That introduced ordinance will be discussed and voted on during next month’s Board of Aldermen meeting.

Also approved were resolutions authorizing the city to enter into a contract in connection with the Industrial Park Improvements Project off of Beacon Light Road, authorizing the city ot enter into contract for service related to electric distribution systems, and authorizing the city to submit an application for funding assistance to the state of Louisiana for improvements to the Ruston Regional Airport.