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Aldermen hash out budget

After cutting the budget in terms of building repairs for City Hall, striping on Main Street and reducing travel to conferences, the Poplarville Board of Aldermen has balanced the proposed city budget for the next fiscal year.

“We’ve cut every department to the bone,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Shirley Wiltshire.

To help balance the budget, the Board also increased the projected revenue from property taxes and applied the expected revenue from the garbage collection fee increase. There are no plans to raise taxes.

During discussion of the budget, Wiltshire asked City Clerk Jane O’Neal to increase the projected tax revenue, because she felt the previous projection was too conservative.

The Board began its meeting needing to cut $41,308 in expenses, said City  O’Neal, and by the end of the meeting the proposed budget was only $879 over.

O’Neal also suggested the Board consider finding out if the debt payment for the Tax Increment Finance Bond could be postponed to the end of the 2022 fiscal year to help bring the 2021 budget in line.

That suggestion came after the Board approved issuing the TIF Bonds at the last regular meeting. The bond issue will be for a 10-year term and with both the principal and interest will cost $789,150 total for the term. The TIF Bond will pay the developer of the College Square Shopping Center for some of the costs incurred to construct the shopping center.

Although the Board has already approved issuing the bonds, Board member Anne Smith said the TIF Bonds need to be discussed further at the next regular Board meeting.

“Who’s paying for the sidewalks over there? Who’s paying for the ADA stuff? Because we’ve got some issues over there. The city’s got a project to complete over there,” said Smith.

Although the Board was able to bring the budget in line without postponing the debt payment, Board members still supported attempting to delay the TIF Bond debt payment.

“Just pray and hope we can defer the principal to next year, which is kicking the can down the road…hopefully there will be more answers with COVID by then,” said Wiltshire.

The Board also discussed a possible repair for the fire station parking lot, which is estimated to cost $2,500 and is not included in the proposed budget. Board member Russell Miller said he was not sure the repair would fix the issue long term.

“I don’t know how much more we can squeeze and milk out of this year’s budget,” said O’Neal about the repair.

O’Neal also said she does not believe the city will be able to take on any more debt in the next fiscal year, and asked department heads to let her know of any expected expenses as she expects future budgets to be tighter.

Since the meeting was conducted virtually, Wiltshire asked live stream viewers to remember to shop local, noting that is how improvements to the city are funded.

The next Board meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday Aug. 18 via video conference and live streamed on Facebook.