City board to present fiscal ’15 budget Friday

Published 1:38 am Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen Friday put the final touches on a projected $32.4 million general fund budget featuring no property tax increase and employee pay raises.
City residents will be able to look at the budget at a 5:30 p.m. public hearing Friday at the City Hall Annex.
The budget is the board’s second since taking office July 1, 2013. As with the fiscal 2014 budget, 3 percent of the projected revenue, about $900,000, will be placed in a contingency fund for future needs, such as disasters or emergency repairs to the city’s buildings or infrastructure.
“Going forward, we just have to keep our heads together and make certain what we do still allows us to be fiscally responsible,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said, adding he believes the city’s improved financial situation “allows us to open the door for (considering) capital improvements to the city.”
The employee pay raises, which were approved in July, will cost the city about $359,409 in 2015. Under the pay raise plan approved by the board, the hourly rate for the city’s minimum wage workers was increased from $7.25 an hour to $8, and adjusted salary increases for the city’s other employees. The total includes a 5 percent raise for Flaggs and the aldermen, which was set by city ordinance passed in 2002.
Also included in the budget are three new full-time positions totaling $153,792 for a public relations officer, assistant parks and recreation director and an administrative assistant for Cedar Hill Cemetery. The total cost includes salaries and benefits such as insurance.
North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield and South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson said the public relations officer and assistant parks and recreation director spots remain under consideration, while the administrative assistant’s post at the city cemetery will be filled.
The public relations post, Mayfield said, is the former community relations position held by Marie Thompson in the Paul Winfield administration and by Patty Meekus under Laurance Leyens. Flaggs chose not to fill the position when he became mayor.
Mayfield said the administrative assistant at the cemetery is part of the changes for the cemetery following complaints about overbooking funerals there. He said other changes are expected for the cemetery in the future.
Three capital projects approved in fiscal 2014 are also included in the budget — new roofs for fire station No. 6 and the central fire station, a total of $180,500; and a handicap ramp for the Vicksburg Auditorium, $75,000.
The projects were moved because work had not begun. The fire department roofs were put on hold after asbestos was discovered at the buildings. The auditorium’s handicap ramp is still in design. That project is funded in part through $50,000 from VenuWorks, which has the contract to manage the Vicksburg Convention Center. The money was included as part of a new contract between the city and VenuWorks in 2011.

Other budget items included:
• The 2015 administration budget is $5.45 million, about $2.067 million more than its 2014 $3.83 million budget.
• The police department budget is about $118,455 less than fiscal 2014, from $7.174 million to $7.056 million.
• The fire department’s budget is about $357,184.15 less, from $6.100 million to $5.743 million.
• Ambulance service’s budget was increased by about $34,204, from $2.706 million to $2.740 million.

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About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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