Flaggs has plan to reduce city’s $1.1M deficit

Published 8:14 am Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pulling money for unfilled positions, refusing to carry over capital projects that were approved in the previous fiscal year, and capping city departments’ spending for the first six months of the fiscal year are the solutions recommended by Mayor George Flaggs Jr. to cut a projected $1.1 million deficit in the city’s proposed $32.4 million budget.

The mayor said he also plans to push for a performance-based, line-item budget for fiscal 2016.

“We are not going to have a deficit under my administration, and we are not going to increase the millage for the sake of the general fund,” Flaggs said.

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The deficit was the key topic at Thursday’s public hearing in the budget, which under state law must be approved and in place by Sept. 15. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen are expected to approve it Sept. 10. Flaggs and Aldermen Michael Mayfield and Willis Thompson believe they will be able to meet that date.

Thompson and Mayfield said they are looking at all areas of the budget to find more cuts. Flaggs said his deficit reduction plan is ready. He will make his recommendation to the board the first part of next week.

“We are going to pull the funds for any position that has not been filled for over 60 days,” he said. “We’ve got money set aside in department budget for positions that are vacant and haven’t been filled. If it hasn’t been filled after 60 days, then it’s not needed.

“We’re not going to carry over any capital projects that were funded in 2014. If work started on them in the fiscal year, they need to stay there.”

Thompson, who represents the South Ward, said three positions that were budgeted for 2015 have been pulled.

Three capital projects, the roofs for the central fire station and fire station No. 6, and the handicap ramp for the Vicksburg Auditorium were listed as carry over projects for fiscal 2015. All three were approved this fiscal year.

The roof for fire station No. 6 is expected to be completed before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, and the $48,500 cost for the project has been removed from the carry over list. Fire Chief Charles Atkins said he has not been told when work will begin on the central fire station roof, which has asbestos problems.

The city signed a contract last week to build the $75,000 ramp, which is funded in part by $50,000 from VenuWorks, which has a contract with the city to manage the Vicksburg Convention Center.

“They’ve begun work on the ramp. That doesn’t need to be transferred to next year,” Flaggs said.

He said city department heads would be limited to spending no more than 50 percent of their budget for the first six months of fiscal 2015.

“That means that through March they can’t spend more than 50 percent of their money,” he said. “By March, we should be in good shape, because we’ll get the first payments (from property tax revenues).”

One carry over that will not be touched is the employee pay raise the board approved in July.

Flaggs, Mayfield and Thompson said they did not move too quickly to approve the pay hikes.

“The money is in the budget to give the raises,” Thompson said. “We had the funds and the recovered revenue (from delinquent accounts).”

“We looked at everything pretty well,” Mayfield said. “We knew the money was there.”

Flaggs said the deficit situation is a good example why the city should go to performance-based budget, where the city will have to account for how the money is spent.

“I’ve never done a budget like this,” he said. “We budget by categories. You can’t tell who is spending what and how much. We need to have line-item budgeting that tells me who spent how much money and for what. So that when you see a check for something, tell how much is was for, what department and what it was written for.”


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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