Sales tax collection and total revenue remain strong for the City of New Roads as it moves into the final stretch of the 2021 fiscal year.

The city is projected to finish 2021 with $2 million in sales tax revenue. The current budget anticipated $1.75 million for the year.

“Sales tax is having a gangbuster year,” said Tommy LeJeune, a certified public accountant for Faulk & Winkler, who addressed the City Council at its regular meeting Nov. 16.

Total revenues through Sept. 21 reached $9.7 million, up from the $8.6 million collected for the same period one year earlier

“We’re definitely moving in the right direction,” Mayor Cornell Dukes said. “We’re very pleased with those numbers, and it means we’re definitely headed in the right direction.

“Last month, we had our biggest sales tax numbers in the city,” he said. “We have two more months to go, and I’m going to try to beat that record.”

Expenses inched up from $8.3 million to $8.9 million, driven largely by heavy maintenance and capital outlay.

“It means you’re making investments in your departments in terms of capital outlay and heavy maintenance,” LeJeune said.

Most of the departments have been “pretty flat” from the expense point of view, he said, due to cancellations during the pandemic, such as the Harvest Festival and youth programs.

The city should see savings next year when it officially makes the return to the LEPA co-op, a move that council members approved during the summer.

“Going through the contract change will affect things, and you should continue to have solid numbers on the income part of view,” said LeJeune, regarding electricity.

Natural gas could pose a greater challenge, with a cost spike from $1.9 million to $3.43 million per year.

It’s a dilemma cities and towns face across the nation, and the City of New Roads will have to follow the same approach as other municipalities.

“Whatever you pay for, you’re going to have to pass it on to the consumers,” LeJeune said. “It’s no different than any other municipality that sells natural gas.”

The city will hold a public hearing at its Dec. 21 meeting before it approves the 2022 budget of $18.7 million.

No major changes are expected, but the city will reduce projected sales tax revenue by 9 percent or 10 percent as a precautionary measure in the event of a downturn.

“It’s best to be conservative here and spend money when you get it rather than to act anticipatory,” LeJeune said.

The city will plan for a total capital outlay of $5.8 million, with a revenue offset of $4.6 million.

Most of the increases will be grant-related activity for the utility projects, with much of that money coming from Washington, D.C., as part of the American Rescue Plan.

It will include improvements to the substations for water and sewer.

“There’s a lot of money dedicated to investment either in utility plants along with the other infrastructure they own,” LeJeune said. “There aren’t a lot of communities are doing that.”

In other business, council members paid their respects to the family of Kenneth “Rock” Ramagos, who died Nov. 14. He was 66.

Ramagos was a longtime employee of Peoples Bank. He died while fishing with friends at Lake Bruin.