Auditor puts heat on Bogalusa to repair major financial issues

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 21, 2014 at 6:39 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 22 at 7:42 PM

Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

BOGALUSA, La. -- Last month, the city of Bogalusa had to lay off 13 employees because of a shocking deficit discovery. Lauren Ritchie was one of them.

"I know this was a situation that was out of his control and he's trying to get it back under control," she said.

Monday, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's Office sent a letter to Mayor Charles Mizell about its significant concerns regarding the city's financial situation, which include the deteriorating employee retirement system and a $1.1 million gap in the general fund.

The mayor said he believes overtime and overspending on town projects, coupled with a computer issue for a majority of 2013, led the town to operate off of incorrect numbers.

But March's layoffs were the first of several steps the mayor says have been taken to get back in the black.

"It's a work in progress, our plan is, and we will be looking at this on a monthly basis," he said.

And the city says it’s now working with a company to review the staffing, salaries and benefit structure to see if there's a better way to operate, especially since the city is half the size it used to be. 

"We have to right-size government again here," Mizell said. "That's one of the things that's so important for this city. It’s what can we afford with the revenue that's here."

The auditor's office also says the town needs to have an "up-to-date" plan to eliminate the deficit, as well as a back-up procedure for future computer failures, and they want those laid out in a report next month.

Former employees have faith the city will get back on its feet.

“This is just kind of a little hiccup but that we will overcome and we'll learn from things," Ritchie said.

The mayor said surplus money and an identified savings of $1.6 million should get the city on the right track for the rest of this year.

He plans to include that in a detailed action plan to the auditor’s office due May 16.

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