City adopts balanced budget for next fiscal year

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez adopted a budget Tuesday with approximately $24.2 million in planned expenses and virtually the same amount in predicted revenue.

But the revenue amount for the 2012-2013 fiscal year may be a somewhat conservative, Mayor Butch Brown said at the public hearing for the budget.

“We’re counting on contingency funds coming from increased sales tax collections and increased collections from gaming,” he said. “We wanted to be conservative in the budget, but we do have (funds) coming from these other sources.”

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The general fund budget accounts for $13,084,601 in revenue and $13,083,491 in expenditures.

The 2012-2013 fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

The budget included 3- to 5-percent raises for many, but not all, city employees.

Police officers and firefighters received a 5-percent raises.

Raises for employees in other departments varied on a case-by-case basis. Raises were awarded based on the timing and amount of any recent raises.

“Several people did not get a raise due to the fact they had just recently received increases in compensation or were new hires,” Brown said.

The salaries of the aldermen, except Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith and Ward 5 Mark Fortenbery, were raised to $22,000, the amount the salaries were before they were cut three years ago. Smith and Fortenbery refused their raises.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis’ salary is legislatively limited to $19,000 and Brown’s to $32,000 because they receive state retirement benefits from previous jobs in the public sector.

The budget also included raises for City Clerk Donnie Holloway and Municipal Judge Jim Blough, whose salaries will be $50,300 and $52,000-$53,000, respectively.

The $255,000 surplus the city will have at the end of the fiscal year will help fund the raises, Brown said.

The budget includes approximately $1 million in gaming revenue and the same amount in expenditures for that funding.

A resident asked the mayor and aldermen at the hearing if they thought with the opening of Magnolia Bluffs Casino in December would result in more revenue or simply a wash because it would take revenue from the Isle of Capri Casino.

Brown said after business for both casinos level off, he expects to see an overall 40-percent increase in gaming revenue.

Other major funds included in the budget are:

-Recreation: $920,291 in revenue, $915,477 in expenditures

-Visitor’s center: $818,032 in revenue, $760,719 in expenditures

-Hospital insurance: $1.46 million in revenue, $1.43 million in expenditures

-Bonds and interest: $2 million in revenue, $1.86 million in expenditures

-Capital improvements: $2.43 million in revenue and $1.8 million in expenditures.

The budgets by city departments include:

-Planning and community development: $216,316

-Information technology services: $163,291

-Police: approximately $2.9 million

-Fire: approximately $2.3 million

-Engineering: $253,625

-Office of Inspections: $284,576

-Traffic department: $197,222

-Public works: $816,585

The public works’ budget also includes hiring two more employees and purchasing a dump truck, tractor boom arm and a pickup truck.

-Sanitary administration: approximately $1 million

This budget includes the $975,732 the city pays Waste Management for garbage collection and disposal.

-City garage: $391,238

-Senior center: $626,421

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard said again he believed it was a positive thing that the city has not had to borrow money to make it through the end of the year and roll over debt. The current fiscal year makes two in a row without such a loan, Dillard said.

“It should not be the exception, but it was,” he said. “This board has taken on those responsibilities and made those corrections…and brought the city in line,” he said.