City finances should be a top priority

Published 12:01am Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The City of Natchez and Adams County are deep in the budgeting process for creating next year’s spending plan.

Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent on the whims of 11 elected representatives — 12 if you throw in the Natchez mayor who doesn’t have a vote, but can sway opinion.

It’s both a monumental task and a phenomenal responsibility.

In Adams County the process has been made easier in recent years by the county’s decision to hire a professional county administrator. The county stepped up its game and put more money into the position when County Administrator Joe Murray was hired a few years ago.

The result seems to be paying off, as the county appears to have its finger resting carefully on the purse strings of the county coffers.

In the city, where aldermen are mulling a change in the city’s charter to eliminate the citywide election of the city clerk, the outlook is far different.

The city has had a string of problems including a sluggish transition to a new accounting software system that, as far as we know, still doesn’t produce the monthly financial snapshots that aldermen seek.

The city’s audit still wasn’t completed recently, delayed in part by the city not getting financial information to the auditor in a timely fashion.

A few years ago we chided city leaders for simply rubberstamping the previous year’s budget as the “new” budget and making revisions as needed throughout the year.

Little did we know at the time just how little financial information aldermen may have had in trying to craft a new budget.

It’s critical that the city quickly get a good firm grasp on its finances. Until they manage that seemingly difficult task, budgeting should be as conservative as possible.