City of Natchez agrees to fire and police pay raisesPublished 12:16am Thursday, September 6, 2012
NATCHEZ — Natchez residents will see no tax increase in the upcoming fiscal year when the city adopts a budget next week.barely
Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said the city had kicked around the idea of a tax increase for the upcoming fiscal year, but is not currently considering one.
If the city does discover it needs a tax increase later in the fiscal year, Brown said, the aldermen can pass it as an amendment to the budget.
“I’m not suggesting that will happen, but I’m saying there is still a way to do one if we need it,” he said. “We’ll be moving some money around, and we believe that we’ll have enough money to cover expenses.”
The city’s need for a tax increase, Brown said, will depend on how much the proposed raises for employees will cost in addition to emergency expenditures the city has recently had to make.
Proposed raises include raising the salaries of the aldermen, City Clerk Donnie Holloway and Municipal Judge Jim Blough. The salaries were cut three years ago as part of several cost-saving measures by the city, and the raises would restore those salaries to where they were before the cuts.
Brown suggested the increase in the aldermen’s salaries to the aldermen at the budget meeting last week.
The increase would not affect Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis’ salary of approximately $18,000. The salaries of Mathis and Brown are legislatively limited because of their state retirement. Brown’s salary is approximately $32,000.
Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery expressed apprehension about raising the salaries and asked if he could vote to forego his raise but increase salaries for the other officials. Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith was not present for the discussion.
The aldermen also agreed, pending the finalization of the figures, to a 5-percent raise for police officers and firefighters. Raises are also being considered for public works and traffic department employees who have not had raises in the last year or so.
Increased personnel expenses for the 2012-2013 fiscal year include the addition of Community Development Director James Johnston, an accountant for the city clerk’s office, a position currently being advertised, one assistant for the city planner and community development director and two new public works employees, among others.
Analisa Therrien, who was recently hired as the Brown’s administrative assistant, will be the assistant to the community development director and city planner. Temple Hendricks will remain Brown’s assistant.
The emergency expenditures the city has recently had to make, Brown said, include repairing roof leaks at City Hall, Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center, Brumfield Apartments and leaks and air conditioning at the city auditorium.
“All these things have just been neglected and gotten to the point of no return, where we just have to fix them,” he said.
Brown said if sales tax collections stay steady in their growth and with added revenue from Magnolia Bluffs Casino opening in December, a tax increase may not be needed.
“All of those things have been factored into the budget with the increased expenses,” he said.