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Judge urges administration, council to ‘set aside’ personalities, work to balance budget

Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 1:00 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Ninth Judicial District Court Judge Patricia Koch gave the City of Alexandria administration and the city council 30 more days to work on balancing the 2021-2022 budget, urging them to work together - “personalities have got to be set aside.”

On Monday, Mayor Jeff Hall’s administration and four of the seven members of Alexandria City Council returned to court for a hearing for legal guidance on how to end a stalemate that began on April 20, when the city council amended and approved the city budget. Earlier that morning, Mayor Hall vetoed, once again an ordinance passed last Thursday by the council. This ordinance created new line items, in an attempt to balance the budget, that moved money from the use of prior-year revenues to lines created to address salaries and benefits for the police department.

Mayor Hall vetoed the initial amended budget on April 27, seven days after it was passed by the council, citing two issues he had with its passage - an amendment that allotted $2 million to the Alexandria Police Department, and a move to defund the Public Safety Commissioner position held by Daryl Terry.

On May 4, the council voted to override the mayor’s veto in a 5-2 vote. Councilmembers Gerber Porter, Catherine Davidson, Cynthia Perry, Jim Villard, and Reddex Washington voted in favor of the override. The following day, the administration filed a lawsuit in the 9th Judicial District Court for declaratory and injunctive relief.

Parties were hoping for a solid decision from Judge Koch on Monday, instead, she volleyed the ball back to them.

Judge Koch told both the administration and the council that she wanted them to get with Trey Gist, a contract attorney for the city, and David Johnson, the city’s finance director. She said it was essential for the budget to comply with the Louisiana Budgetary Act and the city’s charter.

News Channel 5 has learned that Gist has been asked to draft a new ordinance. The council has asked that it be completed by tomorrow so that the ordinance can go on next week’s agenda.

“I’ve seen a sincere effort of both sides [to balance the budget], I think there needs to be a little more,” said Judge Koch.

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