City must tighten up before worst

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 27, 2009

The Natchez cash registers aren’t as noisy as they used to be.

It’s no surprise; we knew a weak economy couldn’t spare us entirely.

But because sales tax numbers in Mississippi are released two months after the fact, it’s easy to live in a state of false reality.

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True reality came recently when the city learned that sales tax collections for December were down 3.58 percent from last year. Low numbers in December, typically the busiest shopping month of the year, are an especially hard blow.

January and February are likely to be no better.

So it’s time for city leaders to take a close look at the budget and begin tightening the corset beyond the point of comfort.

Little cuts — like TV cameras in the board meetings — won’t be enough.

It’s time to consider downsizing whole departments, services and, yes, maybe even jobs.

Who drives cars home from work? Who has city-paid cell phones? How much is the transit system utilized? Do leaders need to travel right now?

Our city leaders owe it to all 16,500 local taxpayers — not just the few hundred they employ — to remain financially solvent in tough times.

Cost cutting may not be popular or nice, but it is necessary.

The sales tax revenue release schedule is deceiving, but we can’t let low numbers blindside us.