Mayoral candidates field questions

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Natchez mayoral candidates, clockwise from top left, Larry L. “Butch” Brown, Phillip West, Bill Furlow and Jake Middleton participated in the mayoral forum at the Natchez Convention Center Monday evening.

NATCHEZ — A standing-room only crowd of Natchezians packed an upstairs room in the Natchez Convention Center Monday evening to hear mayoral candidates pitch their plans for the city, answer questions from the audience and even do a bit of entertaining.

During the mayoral forum, hosted by the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce, candidates were given two minutes to make introductory remarks and were asked three prepared questions. The candidates were each given two minutes per question to respond.

The candidates for mayor are Larry L. “Butch” Brown, Democrat; Robert E. “Bob” Buie, Republican; Bill Furlow, Independent; current mayor Jake Middleton, Democrat and Phillip West, Democrat.

Email newsletter signup

Forum moderator Stephanie Hutchins said Buie could not attend the forum because of a dental emergency.

The first question asked the candidates if the city’s habit of borrowing money to make it through the fiscal year was a reflection of poor financial management, inadequate funds or another reason.

All of the candidates said the city’s ongoing practice of borrowing tax-anticipation loans to fund payroll was not necessarily a bad habit.

Furlow said taking out a loan in anticipation of the ad valorem taxes was similar to a business whose revenue was seasonal using a line of credit.

West said people needed to remember that the city has lost many middle-class jobs that have not yet been replaced. He said if the proposed Magnolia Bluffs Casino is completed, it could possibly help create a foundation for the tax base.

Middleton said the city has already begun decreasing its dependence on tax-anticipation loans by continually lowering the amount borrowed each year.

“It’s doubtful we’ll have to borrow next year with the economic development prospects coming to town,” he said.

The second question asked how long the city can afford to continue its current level of services with more new construction going up outside the city limits. The candidates were asked whether they thought annexing property, raising taxes or cutting services would solve the problem.

All of the candidates said they believed raising taxes or cutting services was not the answer to being able to keep quality city services.