Trip to Jackson costs $3K

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 5, 2009

NATCHEZ — A recent trip to Jackson by three city officials cost $2,697.71.

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, Alderman James “Ricky” Gray and City Clerk Donnie Holloway traveled to Jackson to attend the Mississippi Municipal League Mid-Winter Conference Jan. 27 to Jan. 29.

Mathis and Gray began their trip earlier, spending the evening of Jan. 25 in Jackson to attend a Mississippi Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials meeting on Jan. 26.

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Mathis spent a total of $1,044.79.

This amount is broken down into hotel, food and mileage.

The city pays $39 a day, or per diem, for food, and tacks on 15 percent gratuity to the total amount.

The food per diem varies from city to city, taking into consideration different expenses. For example, the food per diem for Washington, D.C., is $41.

Mathis spent a total of five days in Jackson, and Holloway said even if a person only spends $5 a day on food, they are still paid the flat rate of $39 a day plus gratuity.

The total amount for food plus gratuity for Mathis was $224.25.

The mileage reimbursement is $.585 per mile, and the city pays for the round trip, which it recognizes as 206 miles.

The city will not pay over that amount.

The total amount for a round trip to Jackson is $120.50.

Mathis was reimbursed for four nights of lodging, a total of $475.04. The city’s per diem for lodging is $124.

She spent two nights in the Cabot Lodge at a rate of $128.52.

Even though this exceeds the per diem, Holloway said it still gets reimbursed because Mathis was unable to book a reservation at the Hilton Inn because it was full.

After two nights at the Cabot Lodge, Mathis was able to get her reservation at the Hilton Inn at $109 per night.

Finally, the city reimburses the registration fees for conferences. The Black Caucus fee was $100 and MML’s was $125, bringing Mathis’ total to $1,044.79.

Because food and mileage are flat, unchanging rates, Gray was reimbursed the same as Mathis — $120.50 for gas, and $224.25 for food.

Gray only spent one night at the Cabot Lodge at $128.52, and he spent three nights at the Hilton Inn at $109, a total of $455.52.

He also spent $100 for Black Caucus registration and $125 for MML registration, making his total $1,025.27.

Holloway attended the MML meeting and spent two nights in Jackson at the Hilton Inn, $109 per night, for a total of $218.

His mileage was 130 miles, because his office calculates the difference to Jackson different — at $.585 for a total of $152.10.

He was paid for three days of food at the same rate as Mathis and Gray, which totaled $134.55.

After adding in Holloway’s $125 MML registration, the total amount he was reimbursed is $629.65.

The aldermen budget for travel is $15,000 annually — Holloway’s travel does not come from that amount.

Mathis and Gray are the only two aldermen who have traveled this fiscal year, though Alderman Bob Pollard will be going to Washington D.C., next week.

Mathis has spent $3,242.92 this fiscal year, and Gray has spent $1,683.84.

Mathis said she gathered a lot of information at both the Black Caucus and MML conferences.

At the Black Caucus conference, Mathis attended meetings about how communities can operate under economic strain, how to bolster community policing and how to establish legislation to expedite dealing with dilapidated houses and unkempt properties, among others.

At the MML conference on Jan. 28, Mathis said all members in attendance met with their respective delegation to lobby for their hometowns.

In another MML meeting, she learned about a program through the Central and Southwest Mississippi Planning Development Districts.

The districts will soon be enacting a lease purchase program that has $20 million allocated statewide to refurbish abandoned and foreclosed homes.

Once refurbished, the homes will be put on the market at an average price of $150,000.

Mathis said the benefit is the homes will be returned to the tax rolls and will be available to low-income residents.

She has already begun pursuing the program.