SLIDELL, La. -- Slidell city employees have been put on notice that hard financial times are ahead.
The mayor broke the news to workers this week saying they would likely bear the burden of the latest budget deficit, once more.
Mayor Freddy Drennan says unexpected low sales tax levels have left Slidell with $1 million less than it had planned at the halfway mark of the city’s fiscal year.
In order to keep the budget in line, he’s calling for employees to start paying half toward their retirement contributions beginning in January.
Right now, the city pays all contributions. Drennan says this move saves city services and jobs, though as many as 17 positions may be cut.
“I have to make some very, very hard decisions and they're not easy," he said. "They'll never be easy, and that's something that ends at my desk and that's my job, and I will do what I have to do to keep this city solvent."
With the budget issue worked out for now, the mayor has teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce to tackle the sales tax problem with holiday shopping.
"Get the message out. Please shop in Slidell as much as you can,” said Drennan, “Help out our local business people, keep their doors open and keep their businesses alive. Number 2, you're going to spend your sales tax dollars here at home, which will ultimately come back to you in the form of services, maintenance and up-keep of the city."
Employees are upset about the news, especially after layoffs last year and taking on more work while 40 positions have sat frozen since 2010. Residents say they understand the situation, but feel bad for the families that could be affected.
"We all want to see our economy and our society as a whole do well, even our surroundings, you want to see everything nice, you want to see everything taken care of,” said Pamela First. “But to me, the goal is to keep these people's jobs and their retirement."
The mayor says if the sales tax rate doesn’t improve, employees may be asked to contribute 100 percent to their retirement accounts and some departments could be consolidated.