Public invited to discover Picayune’s proposed budget

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 16, 2014

Picayune residents are invited to attend a public hearing that will concern whether the city will raise taxes or not.

The public hearing will be held during Tuesday’s council meeting at 5 p.m.

According to a post on the city’s website, the hearing will cover the proposed ad valorem increase, announced to be a 6.28 mill hike. That would put the millage from 38.66 mills to 44.94 mills, the announcement states.

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For the closing fiscal year, the city’s budget was $8.8 million, 23 percent of which came from ad valorem taxes, according to the announcement. That comes to $2 million in ad valorem levies.

In the coming fiscal year, the city has projected a budget of $8.5 million, 24 percent of which, or $2 million, will come from ad valorem collections.

School millage is also planned to increase, but only by a small amount (.43 mills), according to the announcement. That would bring the total school millage to 65.67.

City Council member Wayne Gouguet said that announcement does not reflect how the council and mayor will vote during Tuesday’s meeting. He said he will not vote for an increase.

“I don’t think we can continue to go up on taxes to balance the budget,” Gouguet said.

He feels the problem does not lie with the revenue generated, but rather with the amount being spent by the city.

“You can’t spend more money than you bring in,” Gouguet said.

According to his research, he said the city’s sales tax and ad valorem collections have increased by about 37 percent since 2000.

Mayor Ed Pinero Jr. said the city clerk and city manager will present a balanced budget without a tax increase at Tuesday’s meeting. The reason the announcement stating a tax increase is being considered is due to state law mandates in order to allow the public to comment on all budgets being presented, Pinero said.

Pinero foresees the council approving a balanced budget with no tax increases, and no staff cuts. 

The only cuts in staff that would occur would be through attrition as existing city employees retire, and those would be in the areas of middle to upper middle management. Pinero said there will be no cuts in the amount of police officers or public works employees.

“So all of the services will continue at the same level,” Pinero said.

Responsibilities left by those retiring will be spread amongst the remaining staff, Pinero said.

Instead of more government, Pinero said the city’s administration is working to maintain the same level, and possibly reduce it.