Preliminary budget workshop

Published 4:02 pm Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Some moving around of city funds has put the city’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year within a few dollars breaking even.

That maneuvering involved possibly eliminating the ability to fill empty positions, two in the Police Department, and a couple in other city government positions. There may not be employee raises during the next fiscal year as well, said city accountant Amber Hinton.

Mayor Greg Mitchell said a couple years ago all city employees got a nine percent raise, which is more than most employers give.

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Sales tax collections are a major concern for city officials as they work to prepare a budget for the coming year. Council member Jerry Bounds asked Hinton how many times sales tax collections met last year’s projections. She said there were times when the projected collections were met, times when it was exceeded and one month where it came up about $80,000 short. For the most part, sale taxes did not come in as expected.

The sale of some of the city’s fixed assets will help the city reduce some debts, such as the sale of some of the acreage surrounding the city hall to the Utility Authority. The Utility Authoriy is considering the land as a site to build a new waste water treatment plant. That sale would take a large chunk out of the bond issue used to purchase the former Arizona Chemicals building, Interim City Manager Harvey Miller said.

City utility expenses are expected be cut by the implementation of the four-day work week. Hinton said the power company is working up some preliminary cost savings figures for the city to use in the budgeting process concerning one day of reduced electricity usage.

Cutting funding to Partners for Pearl River County by about $25,000 was also discussed. Since the economy is down, there have been no lots sold in the industrial park in some time, which is where Partners for Pearl River County gets most of its funding. Mitchell said the city does not need to let Partners go bottom up and Partners could ask for some financial assistance from the Board of Supervisors. Since Partners occupies a floor in a city building, an additional cost savings would be to ask them to go to the four-day work week.

To help fund the airport and possibly help pay debts in that area, a couple options were considered. One is to adjust T-Hangar rate plans. Another option was to annex the airport into the city limits to generate sales tax, Mitchell said.

Another budget workshop will be held at 4 p.m. Monday at City Hall. Budget workshops are open to the public.