FILE - Shreveport

Downtown Shreveport on the Red River.

Shreveport, a Louisiana city with less than 200,000 residents, has more than $1 billion in debt, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.

The deficit does not mean the city, the third largest in the state by population, won’t be able to pay its bills next year. But over the long term, its current resources can’t fund its obligations, the auditor’s office says.

General obligation bonds, pension and other benefit obligations to former employees, and the renovation of Independence Stadium are among the biggest expenses noted in the report.

Government revenue was $264 million in 2018, with nearly half coming from sales taxes, while the cost of government was $272 million for the year.

“Unrestricted net position is a deficit of $1.1 billion,” the auditor’s office says.

The auditor issued 27 findings critical of city finances, some of which were repeated from the previous year. Its report says a Water and Sewerage Department employee was charged with felony theft totaling approximately $2,766 by providing free water for himself and others, and three city employees were charged with felonies for using city resources valued at more than $25,000 to perform work on private driveways.

The auditor says city administrators did not have adequate controls over payroll processing and payroll data, did not do enough to ensure the accuracy of its inventory records, and didn’t have procedures in place to ensure year-end financial statements were prepared in an accurate and timely manner.

Shreveport also incurred $189,275 in penalties for filing its state payroll taxes late, and bank balances in three accounts were higher than the insured limits, which put the city at risk of potentially losing more than $9 million. City police and fire leave balances were not being maintained accurately, and vendor files lacked supporting documentation, the auditor says.

Officials also did not monitor compliance and proper renewal of its contracts, and water and sewerage sales taxes were improperly charged, leading to inaccurate financial statements.

In their response to the report, city officials say the 27 deficiencies have been addressed or are being addressed.

Staff Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.