City budget hearing tonight

Published 12:18 am Monday, October 6, 2014


The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — City of Natchez leaders will host a public hearing this afternoon to discuss a budget Mayor Butch Brown says has received more input and revision than any other during his time in office.

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The hearing will be at 5 p.m. today in the council chambers on Pearl Street.

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

Last week, Brown and members of the Natchez Board of Aldermen discussed enough revenue adjustments and budget cuts to equalize the deficit.

“We now even have a small surplus in the general fund, but we’ll continue even (today) to look at several different proposals to see if there’s more there,” Brown said. “We have several proposed adjustments we’ll be looking at during the hearing to see what we can come up with.”

An active board of aldermen, who Brown says have requested more participation than ever before, has helped sparked adjustments in the budget.

“I think having had the input of the aldermen and more diligent participation in the budgeting process has been a good thing,” Brown said. “Through the interest of the board and (City Clerk Donnie Holloway), we’ve got a better look at the books than we’ve had certainly since I’ve been back in office.”

Brown and department heads identified several line items in the budget last week with lower projected numbers than what logic indicate the city would actually receive.

Those included items such as fees per railroad car that travels 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 proposed budget included a suggestion to hold off on equipment purchasing for two city departments — public works and the police department — as well as a freeze on all salary increases and new hires until January.

Even with the additional budget discussions, requirements for legal advertisement of the budget and public hearing slowed the process of getting a budget adopted by the Oct. 1 deadline.

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.

State law requires the city to have a public hearing a week before a budget can be adopted, and the hearing itself must be advertised a week in advance.

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.

Brown said he hopes to hear constructive feedback on the budget today during the public hearing from city officials as well as Natchez residents.

“We welcome the public’s input and welcome their concern, because the fact that they’re coming and want to express themselves is a great thing,” Brown said. “But we hope they’ll be understanding that the process we’re talking about has been looked at from every which way and not to come into this thing with any preconceived notions without hearing our proposals.”