City cuts $2 million in spending

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

With virtually the same budget as the previous year, the City of Natchez managed to stretch its dollar and get some extra bang for its buck in 2010-2011.

The board of aldermen voted to accept an independent audit for the fiscal year at Tuesday night’s meeting, and results from the audit show the city managed to cut approximately $2 million in spending this year from its budget.

According to the audit from Gillon and Company, the city’s revenue for this fiscal year and last were both approximately $22 million.

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The expenses for the city went from just more than $22 million to approximately $20 million, with the city even managing to pay off more of its debt than the previous year.

The city saw more than $1 million paid toward its long-term debt.

“This is a very positive move for the city,” Mayor Jake Middleton said. “To have the same revenue with a $2 million cut, that shows that we are really making the money count.”

But the audit brought a bit of advice along with the good news. Gillon also reported that the board and city clerk need to work to get the budgets in at an earlier time.

The board failed to revise the budget before the July 31 deadline last year, a problem that could see repercussions from the state auditor’s office.

Audit reports indicated that the problem stems from the small size of the city clerk’s office and lack of resources.

Alderman Dan Dillard said the city needs to work on getting software for the clerk’s office to help with this problem.

“It is always good to have a good report, but we also have to realize that we have a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “If we have our new software in place this coming fiscal year, we think we can rectify some of these issues.”

In other news:

4 Along with the audit, the board voted to approve the amended budget for the year.

Oct. 1 is the deadline for the budget, and Dillard said the city needs to watch its expenses carefully to avoid going over the budget for the year.

City Clerk Donnie Holloway said the city is coming in right at the budget, but he has sent letters out to city employees letting them know to be careful with their spending until the deadline.

4 The board voted to find out the historical landmark status of Watkins Street Cemetery to see if the city and county can work with other groups to keep the park clean and pay for expenses.

Dorothy Sanders with the Worth Women of Watkins Street Cemetery Association said the cemetery needs funds to maintain the 102-year-old site.

“We are asking for your help,” she said. “There are 17 acres at the cemetery, and two-thirds of it no one wants to help with.”

Sanders said the cemetery is classified as a landmark, but alderman James “Rickey” Gray said the city needed to verify this information before any more action is taken.

4 The board voted to have the Natchez Police Department apply for a $60,000 grant that would install video cameras in the police cars.

Police Chief Mike Mullins said the deadline to apply for the grant is Aug. 31, and that the city would only have to pay $15,000.

“It is a match grant, so you only have to pay a portion,” he said. “Getting $60,000 worth of equipment for $15,000 is a pretty good deal.”

4 The board voted to advertise to city residents a new program that would rehabilitate old homes in the area that need major upkeep.

Gray said the program has very strict stipulations regarding the houses that are helped.

The board applied for the program last year, but Gray said the city failed to receive it.

“We need to make sure that everyone knows the qualifications for the program so that the right people are applying for it,” he said.

A list of the qualifications and more information regarding the program will be printed in the newspaper, and a public hearing has been schedule for the program Aug. 16.