Council hears positive economic news

Published 2:37 pm Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Picayune City Council finally heard some positive economic news at its Tuesday night council meeting: The final monthly payment of state sales tax rebate funds to the current city budget were on target at $344,809.

And the city received 99.36 percent of what it had budgeted, or projected, last year for the current 2009-2010 city budget, which ends on Oct. 1.

“That is a good thing,” said City Clerk Priscilla Daniel during her regular monthly budget presentation to the council.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

One-half of city tax revenue comes from the sales tax rebate funds. The State Tax Commission collects the city’s seven percent sales tax and then rebates a portion of it back to the city.

Total sales tax rebates for the current fiscal year amounted to $4.1 million.

The current 2009-10 budget ends on Oct. 1 and the new 2010-11 budget, recently adopted by the council, takes effect on the same date.

What that means is that the council’s revenue projections on sales tax rebate revenue last year were spot-on, less than one percent off.

However, Daniel’s figures also showed that there was a slight dip in overall retail sales here during the later part of 2009 and through August 2010. But considering that the recession is the worse since the Great Depression, Picayune retail sales managed to hold its on.

Daniel said there was a $26,915 shortfall in funds over the previous year’s funds, which is considered not bad in a $10 million general fund budget. “We held our own,” she told the council. “We were only 6.9 percent below last year’s collections, and I think that is very impressive when you consider the tough economic times we have faced.”

On another matter, the council generated a split 3-2 vote on what was termed on the agenda approval of the final budget amendment for FY 2010. Councilwoman Lynn Bogan-Bumpers and Councilman Larry Breland voted no, and councilmen Larry Watkins, Todd Lane and Wayne Gouguet voted yes. Mayor Ed Pinero, Jr., only votes in case of a tie.

Neither Bogan-Bumpers nor Breland made any comment as to why they were voting against the amendment during the regular open session, but asked later why they voted no, both pointed to disagreements over furlough days for city employees, park funding and overtime.

During a break in the council meeting, between the regular open session and the executive session, Breland told the press that he wanted to eliminate the furlough day and “we had some issues with some points in the budget.”

“We wanted clarification on the park funding, and we wanted to get some ideas on what should be where,” said Breland. “We did not get a clarification, so that was our rationale for voting no.”

Both Breland and Bogan-Bumpers have consistently pushed for more funding for the downtown, or more centrally located, city parks.

Breland also said that he was talking about this year’s, “the new budget.”

On another matter, Councilman Todd Lane asked if the City of Picayune “has a dog catcher.”

City Manager Harvey Miller told Lane that the city does, but that the dog catcher is currently on “workman’s comp.”

Lane asked Miller if the current dog catcher was planning on returning to work. Miller said that, as far as he knew, he was.

Lane told Miller that he had received some complaints from residents about “pit bulls” on Telly Road. Lane said they were running loose on Telly Road.

Miller told Lane that the police dept. has been filling in for the dog catcher. Lane asked were they trained to handle dogs. Miller said they could. Lane said the matter needed to be looked into. Miller said he would tell the police chief to look into it.

In other matters, the council:

— Told Gouguet that the utility dept. projects would be discussed further with the council. With the utility fund showing an $800,000 cash surplus, Gouguet told the council he wanted to make sure that the projects outlined includes infrastructure repairs for deteriorating assets in the system. Watkins said he wanted the “whole council to sit down” and go over the proposed projects. Miller told the council that “that will be no problem.”

— Gouguet also told the council he would like to look into how much it would cost to organize city zoning ordinances. He said that the zoning code books are currently “a mess and need updating.”

—  Okayed the purchase of a 2011 police Chevy Tahoe at the state contract price of $24,182 for the police dept. The purchase would be funded out of a Special Police Drug Fund and would not cost the city nor taxpayers any money.

— Declared the following properties a nuisance during a public hearing in preparation for cleaning up the properties: a parcel at 708 Bennett Street, a parcel at 6th Avenue Apartments, a parcel at 426 Millbrook Parkway and a parcel on Goodyear Boulevard.

— Approved an application from Phillip J. Kahn II for a condition use on a parcel, Lot 8, Square 7 of E.F. Tate’s Addition to the city of Picayune, at 216 one-half South Haugh Avenue.

— Tabled a discussion of the Pearl River Co. Utility Authority. That means that the council took no action on the matter and might or might not bring it up for discussion later. PRCUA officials recently appeared before the council, asking the city for help in repairing sewerage lines before a new citywide paving project gets underway. PRCUA officials said they did not have the money to make the needed repairs. The council said they would look into the possibility of helping the agency but made no promises.

— Approved out-of-state travel for Carol Fitzwilliam to attend the American Association of Retirement Communities Conference in Wilmington, N.C., from Nov. 3 to 5. Attendance is required to maintain Picayune’s retirement city certification.

— Went into an executive session to consider possible litigation and personnel matters.

— Recessed.