City Council reviews income as it works on budget for city

Published 10:56 pm Saturday, September 9, 2006

Increased collection of sales and ad valorem taxes has given the City of Picayune some room to breathe and grow in the next fiscal year with employee raises planned as a reward for their dedication and hard work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

City Manager Ed Pinero said the budget so far may include a $2 million increase from last year, but there will be no tax increase. Pinero said he believes there is no need for a raise in taxes is due to the increase in collections of sales and ad valorem taxes and increases in other revenues.

That $2 million increase in revenues may provide a five to six percent increase in employee pay to bring the pay scale up to compete with other agencies, Councilman Leavern Guy said.

“We’d like to be competitive with the county and other cities,” said Councilman Anna Turnage said.

Mayor Greg Mitchell said the council is looking at increasing employees pay in part because of competition and because city employees did not leave for higher paying jobs during the storm cleanup.

Guy said that in spite of the budget increase there are still challenges.

“We need to keep the qualified people we have to do the job,” Mitchell said.

“That is just probably the best reward we can give them is a raise,” Turnage said.

Guy said the council is still using a conservative projection on the revenue stream.

“We’re trying to stay within the means with the dollars that we have,” he said.

If the raises are approved, they will not be effective until Oct. 1, Mitchell said.

When the council asked for input from the audience, Don Griffith with the Picayune Youth Basketball Association asked what was in the budget for the recreation department. Griffith understood there were budget requests presented before the storm are not listed in the current budget proposal.

Pinero said there’s not enough money in the budget to include those requests in the new budget.

Griffith said he would like to see some funding for other sports and activities, such as Picayune on Stage.

“You’ve got to understand that baseball, soccer and football doesn’t fill all of that. There are other sports the kids play, too, that we need to get those kids off the streets,” Griffith said.

Guy said that they are waiting on a recommendation from the recreation board.

Griffith said he has noticed some lack attendance at the recreation board meetings.

“If we’re going to have a recreation board, they need to be more active,” he said.

Tom Puckett, who works with Keesler Air Force Base, inquired about the future of the Picayune airport.

Pinero said that the council has a full staff in the airport budget, as may have room to support growth.

“We feel like this airport is the leading economic indicator of this city,” Mitchell said.

The council is hoping to get some assistance for the transportation hub from state and federal officials, he said.

“With help from Trent Lott, we believe we will have some support on the airport,” Mitchell said.

Additional projects the city is looking into include city infrastructure needs and implementation of repair projects for roads damaged during the storm clean up, Turnage said.

Guy said there are comprehensive plans that should take place over the next 20 years to help the city be proactive.

“We’re not focusing on the trees, but looking at the entire forest,” Guy said.

In other business the council,

— Approved placement of an Old World Street Charm Clock on the corner of Main Street and West Canal.

— Approved a request from the Daughters of the American Revolution to proclaim the week of Sept. 17-23 as constitution week.

The City Council recessed until 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 15.