City officials: Budgets can be cut but not personnel

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 1, 2000

City officials believe sufficient cuts in the city’s budget

can be made without affecting personnel.

Natchez aldermen and Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith met

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Tuesday with City Clerk Donnie Holloway to discuss proposals recently

submitted by city department heads. The reports detail what a

3 percent cut in department budgets would mean in terms of services.

The possibility of an across-the-board budget cut was first

announced in late September when Smith put a freeze on hiring

of city employees.

At that time, Smith and several aldermen said cuts in personnel

may be necessary to balance the city’s budget as a result of a

compromised tax increase.

Smith said Wednesday the moratorium on hiring is still in effect,

but no personnel will be cut as a result of the budget downsizing.

&uot;(Cutting personnel) was absolutely a last resort, and

it looks like we can work it without it,&uot; Smith said.

&uot;It just feels like I’ve got (the department heads’) attention

and with their cooperation and willingness, we can do it,&uot;

he said.

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sue Stedman said other expenses, including

supplies, travel, contracted services and building repair and

maintenance, can be trimmed to make up for the budget shortfall.

&uot;We are cautiously optimistic that we can get through

this (fiscal) year without cutting personnel,&uot; Stedman said.

&uot;We’re looking at all angles and we see a very positive

future for this city,&uot; said Ward 4 Aldermen and Mayor Pro

Temp Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West. &uot;We just didn’t see

the need (to cut personnel).&uot;

Protecting personnel will mean some departments will not make

the 3 percent cut, but Holloway said he estimates the city will

end the fiscal year with a balance of about $250,000.

Holloway emphasized that fire protection and law enforcement

would not be adversely affected by the cuts.

A recent surge in sales tax revenues also has aldermen optimistic

about the city’s financial outlook.

August receipts returned to the city last month show more than

a 14 percent increase in sales tax revenues over the previous

year, Holloway said, totaling about $50,000 toward October revenues.

Although projections for October are promising, Smith said

he is reluctant to put much faith in the sales tax revenues.

&uot;I hope that’s a trend that continues,&uot; he said.

&uot;But sales tax figures are not really a great gauge to look

at month to month.&uot;

Smith said the cuts will be revisited in the spring as part

of the city’s six-month budget review.

Until then, Stedman said aldermen are &uot;keeping a very

close eye on things.&uot;