BASTROP, La. (5/17/19) — Bastrop’s finances are hanging on by a thread and now they’re forced to repay an almost 15-year-old debt leading some residents to raise questions.
“[It] makes me wonder how we got in this situation,” said Bastrop resident Thomas Rhodes.
A judge ruled that 32 former and current Bastrop firefighters will get $1.6 million of back pay required by Louisiana law, but that number is significantly higher as the mayor explained.
“There’s the $1.67, plus there’s the judicial interest, so we’re talking about $3 million,” said Bastrop Mayor Henry Cotton.
Leaving the question as to how Bastrop will pay the debt. “We could cut jobs but we don’t want to,” said the mayor.
Cotton indicated that the budget is already lean. Although he did announce a potential tax in the last city council meeting; one he plans on having on the next meeting agenda.
“I intend to ask the city council to let us go to the people in November to try and rectify this,” stated Cotton.
However, he says he only would want a tax if it’s fair and efficient. The city is already at the max 2.5% sales tax. Residents believe that ever since losing the paper mill, Bastrop has suffered.
“There are no new businesses brought in and what does get brought in, doesn’t stay,” said Rebecca Rhodes.
Mayor Cotton mentioned that the worst case scenario would be for the lawsuit to just drag out and the city is never able to service the debt. As a result, he is hoping that he and the firefighters can cut a deal for a lower amount. At this point, no deals have been made.
Rhodes states that if it comes down to a tax, residents will have to do what they’ve got to do.
“I wouldn’t feel good but you have to pay it so what’re you going to do about it,” she said.
Mayor Cotton doesn’t foresee the city going bankrupt if they can’t find a solution to help pay this debt. He said the only way that would happen if they had to pay $3 million today.
For previous stories on this Bastrop, firefighter lawsuit click here.