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Aldermen discuss FD, PD budgets

The Poplarville Fire Department urgently needs new turnout gear, breathing apparatus and additional staff, Fire Chief Jason Bannister told the Poplarville Board of Aldermen during a budget workshop held Thursday. During the workshop the Board also discussed increasing the garbage collection fee.

The Poplarville Board of Aldermen is working to balance their budget for the upcoming fiscal year and still needs to cut over $189,000 from the proposed $4.8 million budget. While many city department budgets will remain the same as previous years, the Board is considering budget increases in the police department, to the tune of $203,281, an increase in the fire department of $17,434, an increase in administration totaling $12,732 and an increase in debt services.

The Board was unanimous that they are not interested in raising the millage. The amount that can be collected in ad valorem taxes for the 2020-2021 fiscal year is estimated at $896,748.

Fire Department

Bannister requested the Board budget for five new sets of turnout gear at $15,025, six self-contained breathing apparatus costing a total of $48,748 and desktop monitors and software totaling $2,733.

“The fire department is a ship with a hole in it and it is slowly going down. If we continue on the same path moneywise we’re going to sink,” Bannister said.

The department currently has four sets of turn out gear, said Bannister—enough for four full time firefighters, but not for any part time or volunteer firefighters. The self-contained breathing apparatuses that the department has will not be recertified next year, said Bannister, so the city needs to begin replacing them.

Board member Shirley Wiltshire suggested budgeting for two sets of turn out gear and asking community groups to fundraise money to purchase two additional sets.

Bannister also asked the Board to consider hiring three additional full time firefighters, at an estimated annual cost of $127,000, which combined with other increases would increase the department’s overall budget by $144,434. Board members agreed hiring that many additional fire fighters was not realistic with current city funds.

Bannister asked them to consider adding an additional shift for part time firefighters instead, which would be significantly less costly. Bannister also asked the Board for a $250 increase in the uniform budget, to provide fire fighters with two uniforms per year, which Board members seemed to support.

Police Department

Police Chief Danny Collier is requesting the Board budget $21,390 for repairs to the police department’s building, which shows signs of rot. He also requested the Board budget for one new police vehicle at an estimated cost of $36,546. The department had a 2019 patrol vehicle that was totaled earlier this year. Insurance should cover the cost of replacing that vehicle, said Collier.

At present the department has one 2017 vehicle, but the other eight vehicles were made in the mid-2000s.

Collier also requested a cost of living increase for police department employees. In years past departmental staff used to receive cost of living bumps annually, he said. Board members told him that request was unlikely to be fulfilled.

While Collier’s requests are still being considered, the department’s budget will definitely be increased for the next fiscal year due to the countywide E-911 consolidation. The budget for E-911 dispatch services will increase by $40,000 and the city will be paying the county an additional $8,276 to pay for E-911 IT services.

Garbage Collection

Poplarville residents may see an increase in their monthly garbage collection fee next year, since the current fee will not be enough to cover the cost to the city for collecting garbage in 2021. The cost to the city for collection will increase to $189,572. The current $15 fee only brings in $187,200. The Board is considering increasing the fee to $17 monthly, so that it will not have to be increased again for several years.

Debt Services

The city will continue paying the General Obligation Bond that provided for road, bridge, paving and drainage repairs which began last year. The interest on that payment will be lower in 2021, so the amount the city will pay in the next fiscal year will decrease from $137,083 to $122,248. The bond is being funded with the city’s gas severance tax and the city will be paying for the bonds for the next 12 years.

The budget for the next fiscal year also includes debt service for the planned College Square TIF Bonds. The city approved a plan for the TIF Bonds in 2017 as an economic incentive for the development of the College Square Shopping Center. The Board has not yet issued the bonds, but is discussing a 10 year or 15 year plan. For the 10 year plan included in the proposed city budget, there would be an annual $78,352 payment for debt service. The planned bonds would be funded by ad valorem taxes from the shopping center and half of the sales tax from the shopping center.