Kenner council approves $59.3 million budget

The Kenner City Council passed a $59.3 million operating budget Thursday night that includes 3 percent pay raises for city employees and directs additional money toward demolishing blighted properties.

The operating budget and a $3.6 million capital budget both passed unanimously.

Councilman Gregory Carroll, who described the budget process as an arduous one that every year sees the city doing more with less, said Kenner should be proud that despite the recent economic downturn and other issues, it has not seen a serious budget crisis.

“We are fortunate enough we are not there, and we should continue to say our prayers that we have the proper management by the administration and the council to continue that,” Carroll said.

The budget has been under discussion since last month, when it was proposed by Mayor Mike Yenni’s administration.

The major change made by the council was to eliminate funding for a research analyst who would have reported to the council. Instead, the $54,000 that would have gone toward that position will be added to the $50,000 in the budget to pay for demolitions of blighted properties.

It costs about $10,000 to demolish each property, according to city officials, and council members said a potential rate of only five demolitions a year was too low.

“When the issue is that we don’t have enough resources to do demolition in the city, I was 100 percent in favor of eliminating that position,” Councilwoman Maria DeFranchesch said.

Council members also approved a recommendation from the administration that the city give pay raises to its employees.

The 3 percent raises will apply to all municipal employees, police officers and firefighters and will cost roughly $900,000 a year, according to city officials.

“I’m proud to give our employees the raises they deserve,” Councilwoman Jeannie Black said.

The council also gave unanimous approval to two hotel developments near Louis Armstrong International Airport.

One will be a Best Western on Airline Highway and Alliance Avenue. It will be a three-story, 35,087-square-foot building.

The other project is a hotel complex on Veterans Boulevard at Bainbridge Street. It would include a four-story, 78,254-square-foot Holiday Inn and a four-story, 45,037-square-foot Candlewood Suites.

“It’s not that often you get an opportunity to have one hotel in your city or your district, and here we have two,” Carroll said. “It shows the confidence the property owners and people have in the city of Kenner.”