With little fanfare, aldermen pass new city budget

Published 3:53 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2023

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NATCHEZ — With no fanfare or discussion, the Natchez Board of Aldermen approved its fiscal year 2023-2024 city budget, which goes into effect on Oct. 1.

The budget does not raise property taxes, nor does it change the current allocation of those tax dollars within the city’s budget.

Ward 3 Alderwoman and Mayor Pro tempore Sarah Carter Smith ran Tuesday’s meeting of the board in the absence of Mayor Dan Gibson, who she said was out of town.

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Also absent from Tuesday’s meeting was Ward 6 Alderman Curtis Moroney.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Valencia Hall, Ward 4 Alderwoman Felicia Bridgewater Irving and Ward 5 Alderman Ben Davis voted in favor of the proposed budget. Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier voted nay on the budget. He did not elaborate on his opposing vote during the meeting.

The city’s budget includes $10 million in increased spending. However, much of that increase is due to expected spending of bond proceeds for road improvements and renovations to the city auditorium, civic center and convention center, which were approved in the current fiscal year. Each of those projects is in the beginning phases.

The incoming city budget includes across the board pay raises for almost all city employees with the exception of Gibson, whose $69,000 salary is set by the board of aldermen. Those raises come to a total of $403,004. The city’s fire department and public works employees will receive 8 percent increases. The city’s police department, which received increases this fiscal year, will receive an additional 4 percent increase.

The city’s total budget will begin FYE 2024 with $24,283,830 in fund balances. Revenues during the year from all sources are expected to be $36,592,079. Expenses during the coming fiscal year are budgeted to be $51,274,793, finishing the year with total fund balances of $9,601,116.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Carr Hammond of the accounting firm Silas Simmons in Natchez presented the city’s fiscal year 2021-2022 audit, which he said was a “clean” audit.

Hammond said the city’s assets and liabilities come to a positive balance of $73 million.

While the audit includes items similar to those noted in the past, such as a need to more quickly reconcile bank statements, Hammond said, “Overall, things are better than they have been.”

“Overall, it’s a great report and I am for of the city and how far we have come,” Carter Smith said.

In other action Tuesday morning, aldermen:

• gave its OK for a new city taxi service, Cruise Transportation LLC owned by Camille Vigille of Natchez, pending approval of all permits and insurance by the city attorney. Walter Brown was acting city attorney at Tuesday’s meeting, sitting in for Bryan Callaway.

• accepted a cooperative agreement for a $1,175,625 EPA Brownfields Cleanup Grant for the Fry Building with no local match. In addition, aldermen approved a contract with PPM Consultants for a qualified environmental professional to assist in providing the required professional environment services for the removal of hazardous materials at the Fry Building.

• amended a contract with Thompson Tree and Spraying Services for the demolition of four properties. Originally five properties, 67 Marin Avenue was removed from the list and the owner of the property will be allowed to have it demolished on his own. The new total for demolition is $22,820.

• extended the deadline for receiving contractor bids for renovations to the Duncan Park Golf Pro Shop to Tuesday, Sept. 26, at 2 p.m.