Natchez aldermen vote to restore cemetery funding

Published 11:35 pm Monday, July 10, 2017


NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted to restore $32,000 in funding to the Natchez City Cemetery Association in Monday’s budget amendment session.

The amendment brings the city’s $40,000 appropriation to the cemetery association up to $72,000, the amount the city previously appropriated to the cemetery.

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In September 2016, the city faced an approximately $750,000 deficit, forcing the board to make cuts. As a result, the aldermen approved a budget that cut $32,000 from funding to the cemetery association, a nonprofit organization that operates the cemetery.

Mayor Darryl Grennell said he met with Interim City Clerk Megan Edmonds last week to identify a solution for restoring the funds. Edmonds said the city could allot some of the additional money received from the Magnolia Bluffs Casino to the cemetery.

Edmonds said the city has approximately $250,000 from the casino that is currently not allotted to anything.

After the mayor brought the issue to the forefront, the board quickly and unanimously carried a motion to restore the funds to the cemetery.

Also during the meeting, the board voted to restore a portion of funding to the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society, which had been completely cut from the city’s budget.

The board voted to allocate $5,000 to the Humane Society this month and revisit the issue at a later date to discuss future funding. Edmonds said prior to being cut from the budget, the Humane Society received approximately $25,000 from the city annually.

Grennell said a member of the society’s board recently told Grennell the society had not received a check from the city all year.

After speaking with officials in the city clerk’s office, Grennell discovered that the society had been cut entirely from the city’s budget for the current fiscal year.

Grennell then said he spoke with former Natchez City Clerk Melissa Hawk, who told him the board agreed last year not to appropriate funds to the Humane Society during a budget meeting when Grennell was out of town.

The rationale behind the cut, Grennell said, was supposedly that the Humane Society no longer needed funding because the U.S. Army had provided assistance to the organization. Grennell, however, said the army simply assisted the society with spaying and neutering and did not provide any funding.

The entire board seemed baffled by that assertion and recalled no such instance of cutting the Humane Society out of the city’s budget.

Grennell and city attorney Bob Latham said they thought the cut likely resulted as a clerical mistake rather than a decision by the board.

“My gut told me exactly what Bob (Latham) said — I think Melissa (Hawk) set it at $0 until the board could come up with an amount, and it never got in there before the budget (was approved),” Grennell said.

Regardless of how the cut occurred, the mayor and aldermen agreed on the importance of funding the organization.

Ward 6 alderman Dan Dillard stressed the fact that the $5,000 appropriation would not be the only funding for the society and that the board must continue to fund the nonprofit organization.