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Monroe ends year with meager surplus



MONROE, La. – The city of Monroe could end the current fiscal year at the end of the month with a surplus of some $4,000 in its primary operating fund, thanks mostly to federal funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and local natural disasters.

During its regular meeting Tuesday, the Monroe City Council signed off on an ordinance amending and adopting its budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year that ends April 30.

Stacey Rowell, the city’s director of administration, confirmed the city expected a boost in sales tax collections and federal funding that would offset higher expenditures before year’s end.

While total revenues rose by some $7.4 million, the city’s expenditures also increased by some $3.1 million, resulting in a net increase of some $4.3 million in the general fund.

Beyond higher sales tax collections, the city’s finances benefited from several million dollars courtesy of the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES).

“You can attribute a lot of it not only to CARES but to the tornado and other natural disasters,” said City Council Chairman Doug Harvey.

City officials say insurance costs, COVID-19 supplies, pump maintenance, pump repairs as well as the loss of revenues from certain departments were some of the reasons why expenditures rose.

“The Civic Center and Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo were hit hard during the pandemic resulting in large losses in revenue,” stated the city’s amended budget. “As of the end of January 2021, total combined revenue loss from fees and charges for the Civic Center and Zoo topped $1 million.”

After all transfers, city officials expect to conclude the fiscal year with a $4,000 surplus in the general fund.

Meanwhile, the City Council agreed to authorize Monroe Transit to apply to the Federal Transit Administration for a grant of some $825,000 to build a new public transit terminal.

Monroe Transit manages the city’s public transit, or bus, system.

In 2014, under former Mayor Jamie Mayo, the City Council began to consider the feasibility of building a new intermodal transit facility to replace the one on Catalpa Street in downtown Monroe. There is insufficient seating at the current facility, according to city officials.

The city has proposed putting up $165,000 as matching funds, if the FTA were to award a grant of some $660,000 for the city to begin building a new terminal.

“It’s one of those things we would love to see happen but we need funding for it, especially since the general fund is already covering transit,” Harvey said. “Until we get a grant like that, it’s unlikely we’ll see that project come to fruition.”