I-20 rehab moved up, Dick Hall says in city

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 16, 2004

City employees and elected officials discuss the budget. They are, from left: Human Resources director Lamar Horton; Strategic Planner Paul Rogers; Mayor Laurence Leyens; South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman; North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young; City Clerk Walter Osborne; and accountant John Smith.(Brian Loden The Vicksburg Post)

[8/15/04]City officials are looking for a way to trim $500,000 out of next year’s spending plan to fund merit-based pay raises for employees.

The proposed $29.6 million budget will be unveiled to the public at 7 p.m. Aug. 26 for comment. That amount is up 7 percent, or about $2 million, over the current year, but will not change city tax rates.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“I’m very happy with the (proposed) budget,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens. “Everybody’s budget is lean.”

In the proposed budget, few changes are seen from the current spending plan. The biggest will be in the payroll category, which represents about 65 percent of the city’s total spending.

About $500,000 of the increase in payroll costs is to pay for the merit-based pay raises for city employees, including police and firefighters. The system gives raises based on performance reviews instead of across-the-board raises.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said he likes the merit-based raises because it motivates employees, but he also said the city still spends too much on payroll.

“We don’t have a lot of fat in our services. Our fat is in time management of employees,” Beauman said. “The people we’ve got have got to do more.”

City officials also tossed around ideas of increasing collections in the fire and police departments, including the possibility of charging a fee for responding to fires. Officials said most home insurance plans will pay up to $500 for fire calls.

“The taxes that you pay is to have people trained and waiting, but when you have an event, it becomes a user fee,” Leyens said.

Last year, the department responded to about 1,000 calls, but most of those were grass or vehicle fires, Chief Keith Rogers said.

Another idea to raise the $500,000 was to take the money from reserve accounts now at about $12 million. The current year’s budget includes about $2 million from the funds built up over the past 10 years.

“I don’t want to do that for a reoccurring expense,” Leyens said. “I think it shows we’re failing, and I’d rather raise taxes.”

City officials received about $40 million in budget requests from department heads, including $1.3 million that was cut. Those requests were for new vehicles. Most of those requests were for capital improvements, but officials have said they will start no new projects in the last year of the administration except those already planned and budgeted.

Municipal elections will be next in June, and the winners will take office in July. Next year’s budget year begins Oct. 1.