City leaders adjust revenues, identify cuts to eliminate fund deficit

Published 12:11 am Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NATCHEZ — City leaders say they’ve managed to equalize a nearly $800,000 deficit in the budget through adjusting revenues, budget cuts and a great deal of discussion.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen met Monday afternoon for a budget work session, during which Mayor Butch Brown went through individual revenues and expenses that were adjusted, and in some cases corrected, to balance the budget.

The city’s overall $37.7 million budget has a nearly $3 million surplus, but included a $857,199 deficit in the general fund.

Email newsletter signup

Brown said he, department heads and City Clerk Donnie Holloway worked last week to eliminate that deficit.

“We’ve covered it all,” Brown said. “Using my numbers, we’ve even gone $20,000 over what we needed to fix.”

Brown took the board members through various revenue line items he said were budgeted with lower projected numbers than what would actually be received.

Those included items such as fees per railroad car that travel to the Natchez-Adams County Port as well as an increase in the amount the city will receive from its road and bridge tax.

Other adjustments to the budget included a suggestion to hold off on equipment purchasing for two city departments — public works and the police department.

Alderman Dan Dillard suggested that nearly $152,000 budgeted to purchase a dump truck and four patrol vehicles should be removed from the budget until January.

“Then we can go back at that time to see if the monies we’re expecting to come in are actually coming in,” Dillard said. “I think we need to approach this budget with a better strategy than putting down the same number down each year.”

Dillard also suggested the city freeze salary increases and any new hires until January.

Brown said he didn’t have a problem with doing that even though he didn’t believe any new hires were needed at the time.

Alderwoman Joyce Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis requested Dillard’s suggestion be made more official to avoid any confusion.

“We still need to do that, so no one new can sneak in on us,” Arceneaux-Mathis said.

Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith said she requested city department heads attend the meeting Monday to give input on what items, if any, could be cut from their budgets.

“What bothers me is sitting here trying to decide where departments can cut,” Smith said. “Why would we not get information from them? We should be asking them, ‘What could you do without because we have a shortfall.’”

Brown said all department heads met with him to discuss those matters and led to some of the items found to balance the general fund deficit.

“We, I, had every department in here and asking them where could they cut,” Brown said. “This is what we came up with.”

The city will host a public hearing Monday, Oct. 6, at the council chambers on South Pearl Street to discuss the budget.

According to state statute, the board has to wait a week after the public hearing before adopting its budget, meaning the city will be nearly two weeks past the Oct. 1 deadline.

Smith said several city employees have asked if they would be required to take mandatory time off because of the late budget adoption.

“Employees are thinking that they’re going to be put on furlough,” Smith said.

Brown said the city clerk’s office would not be able to pay bills after missing the Oct. 1 deadline, but that payroll would not be missed.

City payroll is distributed on the 15th and 30th of each month, so a slight delay in the budget would not impact those payments, Brown said.

Dillard said the city clerk’s office would take appropriate measures to stay in compliance with any bills due within that time frame.

“The clerk has gone ahead and made payroll, and other bills can be scheduled early or later,” Dillard said. “I don’t see any reason why the government would shut down.”