City budget requires everything to ‘go right’

Published 11:43 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2009

NATCHEZ — A few things need to be managed if the city wants to stay within its budget this year.

The finance committee — comprised of Mayor Jake Middleton, City Clerk Donnie Holloway and aldermen Dan Dillard and Ricky Gray — met Wednesday to take a look at the budget and where the city stands.

Dillard pointed out that the fire department has spent nearly all of its budgeted money on overtime.

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Holloway said $90,000 was budgeted for overtime for fire officials and $74,000 has been spent.

He said it’s because the department is shorthanded.

Since the beginning of the fiscal year, Holloway said the fire department has lost four employees.

However, Holloway said Fire Chief Oliver Stewart is planning on hiring three new employees.

That will balance out the budget and keep overtime pay from going over budget, Holloway said.

There are also hopes that that the Natchez National Historical Park Service will take ownership of the Natchez Visitors Center, which is something city and NPS officials have been discussing.

“If we can get rid of this visitors center down there, we get rid of a chunk of (expenses),” Holloway said.

Dillard stressed that travel should only be on an as-need basis, and that could be a way to cut out some funds.

One line item where the city is doing well, Middleton said, is fuel.

The city budgeted $4.50 a gallon for fuel, and gas prices are maintaining at low prices.

Overall, if the city can maintain areas in the budget that are getting out of whack — like the fire department overtime — then the city should be OK, the committee said.

Right now, based on anticipated tax revenue and expenditures, the city will be within a $50,000 deficit.

“If everything goes right, then we have a good chance of making it,” Dillard said.

The only unknown factor that could throw the city off its course is low sales tax revenue reports.

The city had increases in sales tax revenue for the past three months reported — September, October and November.

December had a 3.58 percent decrease, and Holloway said he anticipates low sales tax revenue for January, February and March.

City sales tax revenues are posted two months after the fact.

January’s revenue should be reported next week.