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Natchez aldermen approve tax anticipation loan

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to take out up to $600,000 in tax-anticipation loan funds to cover mainly payroll expenses until expected tax revenue is collected.

City Clerk Donnie Holloway told the board the city needs the funding because the city is currently paying two health insurance companies as it transitions from Blue Cross Blue Shield to United Healthcare.

Holloway said after the meeting the city is still paying claims from before Oct. 1, which is when the city’s new plan with United Health Care went into effect. The city is meanwhile also paying the premium for United.

Mayor Butch Brown said the expenses for the claims total about $300,000.

The loan will be taken out as necessary, Holloway said, adding the city will hopefully not have to use the full $600,000.

The loan must be paid back by March and will help pay the city’s payroll expenses, which total $600,000 monthly, Holloway said.

In the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the city borrowed $1.3 million in tax-anticipation loan funds. In fiscal year 2008-2009, the city borrowed $500,000. The city did not take out a loan for fiscal year 2009-2010 but borrowed $375,000 for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. The city borrowed $350,000 in tax-anticipation loan funds in the 2011-2012 fiscal year and $300,000 in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Brown said Tuesday, as he has in the past, that he does not have an issue with the city taking out tax-anticipation loans.

“We’re going to be getting our tax revenue (to pay back the loan),” Brown said.

City aldermen, however, have said they would like to see the city make it through a fiscal year without borrowing money.

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith said after the meeting that it may take a few years, but she hopes the city can work toward not taking out a tax-anticipation loan.

“Not everybody feels that way,” Smith said. “Some people feel like it’s (similar to) a credit loan for businesses, but for me, if we (cannot take out the loan), I think it’s the smart thing to do.”

In other news from the meeting:

-Community Development Director James Johnston informed the board the Secretary of State’s office is expected to turn over ownership of the former Natchez General Hospital building, now known as Oak Towers, to the city.

The building was turned over to the state after taxes went unpaid, Johnston said.

Gleichman and Company owned the building, which was abandoned along with Brumfield Apartments by its management company, Stanford Management, in February 2011.

Johnston said the city will work with a developer to repurpose the building.

Neighboring residents previously spoke out against a proposed affordable housing development in the building.

Brown said after the meeting possible development could be related to housing.

“But it doesn’t have to be related to (affordable) housing,” he said. “It could be condos, or there was one group that wanted to have a retreat center there.

“We want it back on the tax roll … and something the neighbors can embrace.”

-The board voted to appoint Andy Sartin and Jonathan Smith to the Natchez Preservation Commission. Sartin and Smith will fill vacancies left by Tony DeAngelis and Wayne Bryant.

The board also voted to appoint Justin Adcock and Stratton Bull to the Natchez Planning Commission to fill vacancies left by Karen Stubbs and Linda Futrell.

-The board met in executive session for nearly an hour to discuss personnel matters with Berkley Young, a consultant whose company is conducting a detailed study of the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau’s operations. Brown said after the meeting the discussion was related to part-time employees.