Mayor won’t push raises issue with goal of getting budget adopted

Published 12:12 am Friday, October 10, 2014

NATCHEZ — Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said he won’t push the issue of promised raises to certain city employees if it means the board of aldermen will delay adopting the city’s already late budget for fiscal year 2014-2015.

The issue of the raises for four city department heads was one of several raised during a public hearing about the budget earlier this week.

The board had previously discussed freezing new hires and raises until January, and some aldermen expressed concern that some employees might get raises while others would not.

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“The people in question were four new department heads,” Brown said Thursday.

“We all started at the low end of the pay scale to see how they worked out working for the city and getting the job done with a promise of a raise if they were able to do it well.

“I think rather than split the board and have a tie-breaking vote, I will probably go along with withholding those raises until Jan. 2.”

The four department heads in question were Public Works Director Justin Dollar;  Building Inspector Jody Rutter; Planning Director Frankie Legaux and Community Development Director James Johnston.

Those four — along with one addition in public works and an adjustment to make sure all public works employees were on the appropriate salary schedule — represented approximately $29,000 in the proposed budget, Brown said.

The aldermen all knew about the understanding to adjust the directors’ salaries, Brown said.

“This was not something that was discussed or debated, and they were happy to confirm these people as employees,” he said.

“With every one of those (directors) you can quantify how much more efficient those departments are through created income or the generation of fees. We are talking about departments that are generating enough money to pay for the individual.”

The new public works employee was previously hired under contract, but had been added as a full-time employee because of his valuable skill set, Brown said.

The mayor said he and City Clerk Donnie Holloway have worked this week to address some of the other concerns the aldermen raised during the hearing Monday.

One of those — the cost of Duncan Park’s operational contract — was found to be incorrectly reflected in the budget, Brown said, with the contract actually being for $65,000 while the budget said $78,000.

Another issue — how accounting counts payroll for Duncan Park employees — has also been resolved, Brown said.

The mayor said he would like to meet with the clerk again in coming days to take care of more issues before the aldermen take up the matter again.

Holloway could not be reached for comment Thursday.

If the board does not adopt a budget Tuesday, the city cannot legally spend money.

The budget was due Oct. 1, but legal advertising requirements delayed its adoption. While the city has not been able to spend funds since the budget year started, no bills or payroll have come due and city government has gone largely unaffected.

Payroll is processed Wednesday, however, and under normal circumstances the aldermen would approve the city’s expenditures for the month at their regular meeting Tuesday.

The board is scheduled to take up the matter Tuesday before the 11 a.m. meeting.