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Aldermen approve transfers

NATCHEZ — In keeping with their decision to review unscheduled transfers in the city budget, the Natchez Board of Aldermen called a special meeting Thursday to do just that.

The board voted unanimously to transfer $28,000 from the city’s general fund to the city’s hospital fund to pay claims for sick employees.

The board had originally budgeted $200,000 for the hospital fund this fiscal year, but unforeseen expenses have forced the city to transfer an additional $255,000 from the general fund to the hospital fund. The hospital fund budget to date is $455,000.

Alderman Dan Dillard motioned during the board’s regular meeting Tuesday to bar City Clerk Donnie Holloway from approving unscheduled transfers in the city budget without the aldermen’s consent.

Dillard asked Holloway Thursday his reasons for needing the transfer.

“It’s due to additional claims,” Holloway said.

“And we are going to have some more claims because we have some people who’ve had serious illnesses,” Mayor Jake Middleton said.

Dillard also asked if the additional claims are added to the city’s docket. Holloway said the additional claims are not added because the city cannot disclose the names on the claims.

Holloway said Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi drafts the hospital claims, and he checks the account twice a month for any pending claims.

The board then voted 5-1 to transfer $20,754.66 from the general fund to the recreation fund. Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, who wanted a detailed account of the recreation department’s bills, represented the dissenting vote.

City Recreation Director Ralph Tedder said department revenues are $20,000 less than last year due to decreased revenues at Duncan Park Golf Course — a result of reduced golf fees. Tedder said the transfer is needed to pay the bills.

“We don’t have enough revenue in our budget to cover recreation,” Tedder said. “You can never have enough money for recreation.”

Tedder said during Mayor Phillip West’s administration, the recreation department was allocated $100,000 to launch a tennis program as well as purchase trucks with five-year notes.

“The next year, the board took away that $100,000. It was a one-time expense for them, but it’s not a one-time expense for us,” Tedder said. “We had money given to us, it was taken away, and we haven’t recovered from that yet.”

Tedder said since the tennis program was started, it has generated $3,000 to $4,000 for the city.

Middleton, who once chaired the city’s recreation committee as an alderman, said it is a misconception that recreation is a moneymaker for the city.

“We seem to press hard for recreation to be a revenue producer, but it’s a service to our citizens,” Middleton said. “If we want to continue to do the programs and maintain the level of recreation we offer our children and seniors, we need to the find the funds or cut out services.”

Before adjourning, Alderman Ernest “Tony” Fields said he valued the board’s “eye-opening” discussion about transfers. However, since transfers are a frequent occurrence in the span of a week, he urged the board to be more practical.

Currently, the board must call a special meeting to approve every unscheduled transfer, which can occur at least twice a week.

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