EBR city-parish to freeze hiring but has sizable rainy day fund to operate during pandemic
BATON ROUGE – City-parish departments funded through the mayor’s yearly budget plan have been ordered to freeze hiring for open positions as East Baton Rouge works to save as much money as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only essential or “justifiable” positions will be filled, the mayor’s office said in a statement Wednesday morning. Some positions not funded may be deleted from personnel allotment, too.
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome said, however, there is a sizable savings account to keep government afloat and the city-parish is stable.
“Because we have adhered to our prudent financial policies and maintained reserves for budget stabilization and other matters, we will now have those funds available to help us get through this extraordinary event,” the mayor said in the statement.
She said of the hiring freeze: “...It is essential that we take steps to manage our financial affairs as well” as the health of residents.
The city-parish is likely losing a large amount of its tax base as a stay at home order shuttered businesses and cut off consumer spending, leading to less-than-average sales tax revenue. Additionally, EBR businesses are able to defer paying taxes to the city-parish amid the virus outbreak.
The city-parish has access to as much as $93 million in reserves, the WBRZ Investigative Unit tabulated earlier in March, through various accounts: a so-called rainy day fund, an unassigned fund balance and insurance reserves.
At the time of the WBRZ inquiry in mid-March, the mayor’s office said the balances would help “ensure sound financial management.”
The mayor’s office also asked department heads to estimate the cost of the coronavirus outbreak on each city-parish department.
The city-parish will have LSU’s James Richardson, a professor of economics and public administration, review the budget adjustments.
Virus-related expenses are being monitored and the city-parish plants to submit costs federal grant reimbursements and funding opportunities.
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