Saturday, May 19, 2012

Citizens For A Better Kenner Statement On Kenner Budget

The following statement was read at the Kenner City Council meeting on Thursday, 5/17/2012

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Citizens For A Better Kenner has reviewed the 2012/13 proposed budget submitted by Mayor Yenni. While time constraints do not allow us the opportunity to fully discuss our issues with the budget, there are several items that Citizens For A Better Kenner has significant issues with.

Employee perks including car allowances and professional development fees for politically-appointed Directors and Assistant Directors are included in the 2012/13 budget. Last year, Louisiana State Attorney General Buddy Caldwell issued an opinion that the car allowances being paid to some Kenner employees are illegal.

In April, several tv stations reported on the continuation of the illegal car allowances. In one report, the Mayor stated that he would take action on the car allowances upon his return from military reserve training. The fact that Mayor Yenni did not take action last year, and still has not taken action to abolish the illegal car allowances is an affront to every Kenner taxpayer.

Citizens For A Better Kenner respectfully asks that the Council take immediate action to eliminate all unnecessary car allowances and any professional development fees that are not directly related to an employee’s continued responsibilities with the City of Kenner. This will save Kenner taxpayers over $100,000 annually.

While agreeing with the Council and the Mayor that salary increases for City of Kenner employees are long overdue, CFABK believes that the increases should be limited to the rank-and-file employees and not include Kenner’s highly paid, politically appointed Directors and Assistant Directors.

The 3% proposed salary increase will amount to thousands of dollars for each politically-appointed Director, the average City of Kenner employee’s salary will only increase by less than $15 per week. While Directors receive thousands in additional salary, car allowances and other benefits, the average Kenner employee won’t be able to afford a tank of gas with their salary increase.

CFABK respectfully asks that the Council use the funds budgeted for employee raises exclusively for non-political employees.

CFABK is also disappointed that the City of Kenner is continuing to participate in a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with JEDCO which costs Kenner taxpayers $75,000.

Since JEDCO is primarily funded by Jefferson Parish, and, as such, should represent all of Jefferson Parish, we question why Kenner needs to make an additional payment for representation that it already pays for.

CFABK is also concerned with the annual subsidizes provided to the Pontchartrain Center and Center Manager, SMG.

CFABK appreciates that the annual subsidy is projected to be reduced to $443,900, however we fail to understand why Mayor Yenni has not been more proactive in negotiating a better deal for the city with SMG or securing another company to manage the Center. Clearly the City has more pressing needs than to spend $400-500,000 or more annually to subsidize SMG’s management.

While SMG may be filling more days at the Pontchartrain Center, Metairie Dog Shows are not the type of events that bring overnight and weekend visitors to Kenner and fulfill the mission of the Pontchartrain Center.

While unrelated to the budget, CFABK overwhelmingly supports a Charter change to eliminate all political activity for all City of Kenner employees including the Police Chief. City employees should be judged upon their performance for the residents and business owners of Kenner and not on their political views. In addition, the Kenner Police Chief should be apolitical and focus on enforcing laws not influencing those that may be elected.

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