Board considers hiring freeze

Published 2:18 am Thursday, September 1, 2011

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen discussed the possibility of freezing all hiring — including new hires and replacements — for the 2011-2012 budget year at Wednesday’s budget meeting.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard suggested the board deny every department’s request for an increase.

Dillard suggested the board reevaluate budget increase requests after the first or second quarter of the new fiscal year.

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City Clerk Donnie Holloway said some of the increases from last year’s budget were the result of raises the board approved during this fiscal year.

“If we allow department heads to budget additional expenditures, they will spend them,” Dillard said. “We can’t give it to them and take it back.”

Dillard said the budget should compute revenues modestly and overestimate expenses.

Ward 2 Alderman James “Rickey” Gray said the budget should start from scratch.

“The way we build our budget is the problem,” Gray said.

“We should build (the budget) from zero, not what they had last year,” he said.

Gray said the Natchez Police Department is currently understaffed, so funding their current budget without an increase would keep them understaffed.

“The police (department) is a revolving door out there,” City Clerk Donnie Holloway said. “They’re two to three (officers) short all the time.”

Holloway said the police department’s current staff is more stable than it has been in a long time, and that NPD is rarely fully staffed.

Holloway said the NPD currently employs 44 sworn officers and is short approximately three officers.

In other news from Wednesday’s budget meeting:

4 The board discussed creating a fund to meet IT needs by putting 1 percent from each department’s budget toward some version of an IT department.

Dillard said while departments might not like giving up 1 percent of their budgets, an IT department might save each department money.

“(Departments) are spending more than that now on computer services,” Dillard said.

By cutting out the cost of contractual computer services, Dillard said, departments would ultimately benefit financially from a city IT department.

Holloway noted the aldermen should keep in mind that a new IT department head would likely request hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

“The first thing (an IT department) needs to do is assess,” Middleton said.

“(The city needs) everybody using the same type of computers,” he said.

That way, Middleton said, employees could at least help each other.

Dillard suggested the IT fund contract services for the first two years before getting a director that would spend too much money. The city could then hire a director with the funds saved.

4 Ginger Hyland appeared at the work session in City Hall to discuss recent cat killings by a group of dogs.

“There are a lot of dead cats and a lot of emotional people,” Hyland said.

She said she believes up to 50 cats have been killed this summer by dogs that hunt them at night for sport.

Hyland, who lost one cat to the killings and has a $400 vet bill for another one of her cats, said the city has not provided a contact for residents to report the incidents to, and nothing is being done to resolve the problem.

She said the city’s animal control officer cannot solve the problem on her own, and someone needs to be available overnight to respond to reports of the incidents.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis suggested Middleton contact the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

“If (the dogs) are running in packs, they’re wildlife,” Arceneaux-Mathis said.

She said NPD officers can use the wildlife and fisheries department’s suggestions about the best way to catch the killer dogs.

Middleton said he would alert NPD of the need to respond to the killings and would talk with others about possibly coordinating night shifts for animal control.