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Pay raises are not coming for city employees this year

NATCHEZ — No City of Natchez employee will receive a raise when the new fiscal year begins in a little less than six weeks.

The city will, however, have added expenses with equipment replacement, particularly in the information technology department, and vehicle purchases.

City of Natchez officials talked dollars and cents Tuesday in preparation to finalize a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Mayor Butch Brown, City Clerk Donnie Holloway, Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis and Ward 2 Alderman Ricky Gray met with heads of the planning and community development, IT, police, traffic and public works departments to work through budget requests from each department.

Some department heads requested 3-percent raises for their employees, but Brown said the city would not consider raises at this time.

“Once we get our set of books (in order) and look at where we are, and we get our audit with our findings and corrections, we will have another time, when we revise our budget, that we will deal with those kind of issues,” Brown said.

City employees received a 5-percent raise in September 2012.

Gray said the city needs to look at raising salaries for longtime employees who have not received a decent raise in years.

“For an employee to work at this city for years and make $20,000, that’s ridiculous,” he said.

The proposed IT budget jumped nearly $200,000 from approximately $133,000 to $325,000. IT Director Ed Bowser said the increase would be only for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The proposed budget, however, could not be a true picture of how much the IT department will need. Bowser said some of his calculations for IT’s increased budget might be accounted for in other departments that currently pay for their own IT needs.

The department heads were asked about their individual IT needs, in an effort for the city’s administration to get a handle an IT expenses for the city.

Bowser and Brown agreed that it would be best if IT needs were handled strictly out of the IT budget.

The increased IT budget includes hardware and software purchases, including replacing the city’s server, which is approximately 70-percent full. The remaining small amount of capacity is limiting the IT department’s ability to provide IT services to departments, Bowser said.

The traffic department’s proposed approximately $206,000 budget will include two new vehicles.

Natchez Public Works’ proposed approximately $752,600 budget includes a new compact excavator for street repairs.

Preliminary approximate budgets for other departments include:

-$234,000 for Planning and Community Development.

-$288,000 for Inspections.

-Approximately $1.8 million for the Natchez Police Department.

Brown noted that the budget requests include everything department heads would like in their budgets, but could be cut during the budgeting process.