City not worried about budget gap

Published 12:01 am Friday, October 3, 2014

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez enters this morning its third day in what city officials say will be a 13-day stretch of no budget and no spending — sort of.

The city government did not adopt a budget before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year, and cannot legally spend money without a budget.

Legal advertising requirements have slowed the process required to correct the situation. State law requires a public hearing a week before a budget can be adopted, and the hearing itself must be advertised a week in advance.

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The hearing has been advertised for 5 p.m. Monday in the council chambers on Pearl Street.

But how is the city government operating in the interim?

“Everything is normal,” City Clerk Donnie Holloway said. “We are not cutting any checks (for bills), but we don’t cut checks until after the 20th of the month anyway.”

If the city government sticks to its schedule and adopts the budget Oct. 13, no shutdown of government functions will be necessary. City payroll is processed on the 15th and 30th of every month, so employees won’t miss a paycheck.

The board of aldermen at its regular meetings authorizes payments of bills, and the board’s first regularly scheduled meeting for such matters is Oct. 14.

Holloway said as long as the budget is adopted Oct. 13, the city won’t be subject to any late penalties for its bills and won’t be behind on any payments.

“Right now, we are business as usual,” Mayor Butch Brown said. “The only thing we are not doing is we are not going to pay any bills until we have adopted the budget, and we normally don’t pay our bills until mid-month anyway — we should be on track for everything we do.”

The proposed budget is for $37.7 million.

Holloway said some relatively minor adjustments may be made between now and the public hearing, but nothing major. Brown said the proposed budget could result in a surplus after adjustments made to the general fund.

“We have been able to do this without any tax increases and with relatively strong departmental budgets remaining,” he said. “Other than being a day or two late, I think we have done a reasonably good job.”

The board of alderman has agreed to freeze salaries and new hiring until January as part of the budget planning process.