New Aldermen forming budget

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Poplarville Board of Aldermen set out to cut almost $100,000 from the general fund budget for fiscal year 2018 during the first budget workshop held Monday night.
With a few expensive projects on the administration’s radar, the Board reduced some departments’ requests for more funding.
At 54.5 mills, the city is expected to collect $765,000 in ad valorem taxes for the 2018 fiscal year.
The general fund is expected to reach $2.7, an increase of about $737,000.
Due to financing required to construct a new public works building, perform street repairs, build city square park and other loans, City Clerk Jane O’Neal said the city’s total revenue will rise to $4.4 million from $2.1 million.
With those loans, the city’s debit service will increase to about $173,000 per year, some of which would be paid through the general fund and others through the water fund.
Through organizational donations, the city plans to budget $24,000 to the Pearl River County Library System, double what is collected through the library tax.
It also set aside $600 for the National Guard Armory and $15,000 for the Pearl River County Economic Development Council—a move some Aldermen questioned.
Some of the largest requests came from the police and fire departments, which are short staffed.
Poplarville Fire Chief Jonathan Head requested an additional $51,000 in funding that would partially be used to fill an empty full-time position by scheduling additional part-time staff. He said that change would help with the increase in calls during the school year.
Head said the department relies heavily on volunteers who are usually unable to work during the peak hours of the day when the department is most in need. Head said he would also like to hire someone to fill the role of assistant chief or captain to help with administrative work.
Mayor Rossie Creel said the proposal was “a big question mark right now,” adding that the requested $15,000 increase to the department’s payroll might not be feasible.
Poplarville Police Chief Butch Raby said he is in dire need of a full-time investigator because he currently performs most of those duties.
“It has taken away time from my duties, it takes me out of town. If I had an investigator, their duties would include investigating felonies as well as patrol duties,” Raby said.
Raby also requested funding to replace the department’s two aging Chevrolet Tahoes. Due to the small nature of the department, most of the vehicles run during the day and night shifts, he said, increasing the amount of wear and tear.
City Hall also has a staff shortage; a deputy clerk position has been open for at least six months, O’Neal said.
With only two clerks on staff, O’Neal said she and her staff have been stretched too thin, especially when other City Hall employees are absent.
O’Neal requested the vacant deputy clerk position also receive a raise as an investment to the city.
“When you invest in people with skills, it’s always a good investment. But it’s hard to find someone off the street that you can bring in that knows basics of accounting,” she said.
The Board also discussed pay increases in all departments, something that hasn’t occurred for a number of years. An inequality in some departments where employees performing the same tasks are paid varying rates was also discussed.
The Board will hold another budget workshop Wednesday, Aug. 9 at 4 p.m. at City Hall.

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About Julia Arenstam

Staff Writer

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