Public hearing on city budget set for today

Published 12:29 am Thursday, September 7, 2017


NATCHEZ — Today marks the first of two public hearings at which Natchez residents can voice their thoughts on the city’s proposed budget for next year.

The hearing — scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers building — will address the proposed budget, including a possible tax increase of up to 4 mills.

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Interim City Clerk Megan Edmonds said these hearings are held annually to allow citizens an opportunity to be involved in the budgeting process.

“It’s just for the taxpayers and citizens to be able to come forward and ask any questions they may have, voice any concerns they may have in relation to (the proposed budget and possible millage increase),” Edmonds said.

Citizens will not, however, be able to see what next year’s budget will look like at tonight’s public hearing. Edmonds said her office is still working to prepare a final proposed budget to go before the board of aldermen for approval. Until the clerk’s office finalizes the proposed budget, she said, the city cannot disclose to the public any budgetary figures for next year.

“Right now, we’re still working on the budget — there are no definite (numbers),” she said. “We don’t have those final numbers to provide at this point.

“(Once completed), those final numbers will be published and made public.”

Edmonds said residents could still ask questions or voice concerns about the potential millage increase or provide general comments about what they would like to see done with taxpayer money.

Edmonds said a final budget would be prepared by the time of the city’s second public hearing, scheduled for 5 p.m., Sept. 15.

Edmonds said the city plans to approve the final budget that night, which is the deadline for the public bodies to approve a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

All Mississippi municipalities are required by state law to hold at least one public hearing at least one week before the adoption of a budget.

The city’s fiscal year 2018 proposed budget projects a total revenue of $36,328,185, up from $33,590,095 last year. As advertised by the city, $5,776,813 of next year’s projected revenue will be financed by an ad valorem tax levy.

City officials have said any increase in tax millage would go primarily toward raising wages for Natchez police officers and firefighters.

“We’ve been investing a lot of money in firefighters and police officers and not been able to retain them because of their rate of remuneration and their salaries,” Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said.

Grennell said he expects residents to inquire about what services are being provided by taxpayer dollars, and the mayor said he has worked hard to keep taxes as low as possible.

“I’m trying to do everything I can to keep taxes down, and that’s a promise,” Grennell said.

If the city does approve a millage increase, it would mark the first time since 2005 the aldermen raised city taxes.