Aldermen say projected budget cuts, hiring freeze necessary

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 3, 2000

A hiring freeze on city employees mandated by Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith last week and an anticipated 3 percent budget cut for all city departments is necessary to balance the city’s budget, Natchez aldermen say.

&uot;We know that since we didn’t go with the full tax increase, we had to make up some funds somewhere,&uot; Ward 3 Alderwoman Sue Stedman said.

In August, the board rejected a 7.428 mill ad valorem tax increase, instead settling on a 4.199 mill increase solely to service the city’s bond debt.

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Without the full increase, the city lacks about $330,000 for the general fund, employee health insurance and rising energy rates, Ward 5 Alderman David Massey said.

&uot;That combined, we can either cut services or raise taxes,&uot; he said. &uot;And this (cut services) is what we decided to do.&uot;

Massey added the hiring freeze and planned budget cuts are only temporary and will be revisited in six months.

&uot;If revenue — specifically sales taxes — picks up by then, we can reverse the cuts,&uot; Massey said.

Others, like Ward 4 Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West, said the 3 percent across-the-board budget cut is one of several options before the aldermen at this time.

During the last finance meeting, City Clerk Donnie Holloway was asked to prepare three options to balance the budget from which the aldermen would then choose, West said.

&uot;The mayor is the CEO of the city, so he has the power to try some things and then we will have the opportunity to ratify it at the next meeting,&uot; West said.

&uot;There are a dozen different options,&uot; Stedman said, &uot;but the board of aldermen is concerned that a maximum amount of service is maintained while balancing the budget.&uot;

Smith stressed that the 3 percent cuts have not yet been implemented and the other options are still being prepared for the aldermen’s review. &uot;I want a real good understanding of what effect (cuts) are going to have,&uot; Smith said, adding that personnel would realistically be affected by the imposing cuts.

&uot;Again, I don’t want to have to lay people off, but that hasn’t been ruled out,&uot; he said.