Public owed proper plans for budget

Published 12:06 am Thursday, October 2, 2014

City of Natchez leaders owe the public a more serious approach to budgeting — before the 11th hour.

We’ve long asked, no begged, the city to budget by starting from the ground up, looking at what each department actually needs to spend versus what it hopes, plans or spent in the past.

At least three aldermen who commented at Monday’s budget hearing seem to be working from a similar page.

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Board of aldermen members Dan Dillard, Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis and Sarah Carter Smith all seem to be pulling the rope in the same direction, attempting to wrangle a budget process that has become lackadaisical at best.

At Monday’s budget hearing — which came days after the state requires municipalities to have a budget adopted — Dillard suggested the city institute a hiring freeze, at least until early in the next calendar year when tax revenues start being received.

Arceneaux-Mathis agreed with the idea, even acknowledging the board needed to make it an official act to avoid having new employees “sneak in on us.” She knows how government works.

And finally, Smith suggested they meet with department heads to ask them what could be cut from their budgets. That’s a step in the right direction, but it’s unlikely aldermen will find many city department heads volunteering to lop off portions of their departmental budgets.

The only real solution is for aldermen to all spend more time working to understand how the city functions, going into departments and examining work to fully understand what’s needed and what isn’t.

Until that hard work is done, it’s likely the city will be back in the same spot again next budget season.

Can aldermen commit now to change for the 2016 budget?