City budget avoids tax increase again

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 31, 1999

Despite plans for a multi-million dollar convention center and continued work on the bluffs, city officials won’t have to raise taxes this year.

Instead, a tight rein on department budgets and some &uot;innovative ideas&uot; are keeping the general fund budget around $12 million for the 1999-2000 fiscal year.

The board of aldermen adopted a preliminary budget at last week’s regular meeting, but City Clerk Frances Trosclair said the budget could be adjusted slightly based on plans to restructure the city’s bond debt. The city hopes to restructure its $6 million debt for four different bond issues into one debt whose last payment comes due in 2012.

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Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said the city thinks it has found a good interest rate, about 5.1 percent, that will allow the city to make $1.6 million over the next six years. The bulk of that money – about $800,000 to $900,000 – would be made in the first two years, he said.

Brown said the city has been &uot;aggressive and resourceful&uot; in planning a budget with multi-million projects but no tax increase. &uot;We’ve had our share of good luck, that we like to call good, sound financing,&uot; he said.

The convention center project will be funded by $12 million in bonds, and bluff work is funded by grants administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Trosclair said city leaders and department heads have worked together to insure the budget stays in line. &uot;This is strictly a team effort,&uot;&160;she said.

Only two departments had to ask for more money than they were appropriated, public works and police.

Trosclair said public works needed more money than she allocated to compensate for maintenance of state highway rights-of-way. Under an agreement with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the city will begin mowing the rights-of-way on state highways within the city limits. The police department needed more money to compensate for cuts it made last year, Trosclair said.

Those budget requests brought the general fund just more than $300,000 over budget, Trosclair said.

The board of aldermen could borrow from the gaming fund, a practice the city tries to avoid because that money is designated for capital improvement projects, Trosclair said. The amount the city would have to borrow from gaming could also be affected by the bond restructuring.

The board has not decided on a final budget this year. Trosclair said that when a similar situation occurred last year, the board decided to revisit the budget six months into the fiscal year, and did borrow the money from gaming.