BATON ROUGE, La. — November 5, 2020 — Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome presented the 2021 Budget to the Metropolitan Council Thursday during the annual Special Budget Meeting.
“While 2020 has brought many challenges to our community, we continue to be resilient. Even though we have had to prepare and respond to multiple tropical weather events and experienced a decline in revenues this year due to the global pandemic, we have taken advantage of federal and state funding opportunities and exercised prudent fiscal management to produce cost savings, avoiding service interruptions to our citizens,” said Mayor Broome.
The uncertainties surrounding the full economic impact of COVID-19 have created additional challenges in the preparation of this budget; the City-Parish has worked with local economists from Louisiana State University to prepare the anticipated revenue forecast.
The presented budget will authorize approximately $982 million in spending, with $318 million being for general operating purposes. The remaining $664 million is lawfully dedicated for specific purposes.
The 2021 budget will utilize $9.4 million in reserves to support 3 percent of proposed spending in order to protect against reducing service levels for the citizens of East Baton Rouge or raising taxes and fees because of the temporary revenue decline related to the pandemic.
Based on revenue estimates, the proposed budget for 2021 for all funds, exclusive of operating transfers between funds, totals $982,114,922, amounting to a decrease of $24,631,418 or 2.45% from the 2020 budget.
Summary of 2021 Budget:
- Public safety remains a top priority for the City-Parish. Additional training academies for the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) and the Baton Rouge Fire Department (BRFD) to meet ongoing recruitment needs. In 2021 we will implement efficiency measures identified by national law enforcement experts earlier this year to reduce costs and increase efficiency. The implemented efficiency measures will provide funding for a 3 percent across-the-board pay increase for sworn police personnel, which is the first step to bring compensation for BRPD officers in line with their peers. In order to maintain adequate staffing levels due to growing health emergencies, funds are allocated for 32 additional medics in the 2021 budget; additional staffing will provide funding to place three emergency transport vehicles into service.
- The Broome Administration has developed and implemented a “Whole Community” All-Hazards Recovery Strategy to help us become stronger and more resilient should we face another disaster such as the flood of 2016. Work on our parish’s first comprehensive Stormwater Master Plan is in the last phase of completion. We are already utilizing information obtained to model and evaluate our infrastructure, identify critical drainage improvement projects, and identify and correct maintenance issues in our stormwater collection system. This plan will be the City-Parish’s guide as we manage $655 million in drainage improvements underway, including major projects such as the Comite River Diversion project, and work on our five major tributaries. These major projects will greatly reduce potential flood risk for many residents and businesses.
- Improving transportation and infrastructure is essential for the growth of the City-Parish. The 2021 budget includes projects within the MOVEBR program — the largest infrastructure, mobility enhancement, and traffic mitigation program in the parish’s history — such as the implementation of traffic signal upgrades and laying fiber optic cable to provide for traffic light synchronization. The City-Parish is simultaneously equipping all 470 signals with new technology that allows emergency responders to pre-empt traffic signals, turning the signals green in advance of their approach, allowing the emergency responders to reach destinations quicker. This will reduce response time and prevent accidents by clearing traffic ahead of emergency vehicles. Synchronization should be complete in two years with some major corridors, like Florida Boulevard and Perkins Road, being completed by the end of 2021.
- Economic development is critical to expanding our revenue base. In 2020, our region experienced a loss in jobs as a result of COVID-19. However, it is expected that Baton Rouge will make a full recovery mainly driven by large turnarounds that have been delayed, which are expected to add approximately 17,300 new jobs in 2021 and another 5,800 in 2022. According to local economists, the Baton Rouge area should be one of three in the state to recover all jobs lost during the pandemic by the end of 2022.
- Improving quality of life and quality of place remain a priority. Our new Mental Health and Substance Abuse Center, which will open at this year’s end, will provide citizens and our first responders with a place to bring those experiencing crisis.
- Beautification initiatives such as Operation Fresh Start, the parish-wide litter abatement and beautification campaign, along with the Blight Strike Team are experiencing success by removing eyesores from our environment. Continued funding for Build Baton Rouge is providing ongoing revitalization efforts within disinvested parts of our community. Through partnership and collaboration with public, private, and non-profit community organizations, we will continue to invigorate and rejuvenate our communities.
The Metropolitan Council will hold budget hearings during November, and a special meeting will be held on December 8th, for the adoption of the 2021 Annual Operating and Capital Budget. View Mayor Broome’s proposed 2021 budget here.