City to close fiscal ’14 with $1.14M surplus

Published 12:02 am Saturday, September 27, 2014

The City of Vicksburg will finish fiscal 2014 with a $1.14 million surplus, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen learned Thursday.
City Accounting Director Doug Whittington announced the surplus after completing a list of budget amendments to close out the fiscal year. The city’s new fiscal year begins Wednesday.
Whittington also said the city finished fiscal 2013 with a $473,000 deficit, according to its 2013 audit report, meaning the city’s financial picture improved by about $670,301 between Sept. 30, 2013, and Thursday. The 2014 surplus is about $192,942 more than the $950,359 surplus projected for 2014.
The increase is the net difference between a net $261,530 loss in revenue and a net $454,472 drop in expenses, resulting in the $192,942 increase in the city’s available cash on hand.
“In the first year, we’ve gone from a $473,000 (deficit) to $1,143,301 over and beyond saving $3 million,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said after hearing the numbers. “So as of today, if we can make it to the first without any disasters, this board has come from a $473,000 deficit to a surplus in addition to saving $3 million in reserve.
“If next year is any indication of this year, and we can still do what we do and do what we’ve done, we can probably save a $1 million this year.”
The board approved a $3 million reserve fund separate from the city’s 2014 budget, which was based on 97 percent of the city’s projected revenue with the unbudgeted 3 percent, or $918,976, placed in a contingency fund for emergency spending.
The $32.44 million 2015 budget is based on 100 percent of the city’s projected revenue, but includes about $3.2 million in one-time funds for capital projects, meaning the city will have $29.15 million in operating funds.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Flaggs said, outlining other city savings in fuel for city vehicles and a reduction in the amount of unaccounted gas use by city customers. He said the goal is to reduce the lost gas total by 14 percent, which is the average for the state. That will be done through the installation of more accurate meters.
Flaggs said he plans to begin looking at reducing the costs of operating the fire and police departments.
“Public safety accounts for $16 million, that’s more than half of our $32 million budget,” he said. “This city cannot continue to operate with those two budgets combined being more than half of the general fund.
“I think that if we look at the budgets collectively, we can find another $1.5 million savings in the fire department, and I plan to recommend (changes) to you in January for the coming year,” he said. “I think we can reduce the fire department and enhance the quality of the fire department. It may alter somebody’s lifestyle, but we can do it.”
Flaggs added he also plans to recommend changes in the police department that could save “$500,000 to $800,000,” and to have the board review the services the city provides to people living outside the city limits.
“We are providing anywhere from $500,000 to $1.5 million in services to non-residents that we are going to look at,” he said. “It’s costing more to provide than we’re receiving in terms of cost. It’s not politics, it’s just reality.
“I think I was elected for change for a better Vicksburg,” he said. “A better Vicksburg includes us looking at everything. I don’t know if I’ll get re-elected. Maybe I’ll have to run for the border. (But) I believe if we continue to be good stewards, we can provide the best quality service to citizens of Vicksburg if we just put it all together. We’re going to have to make some tough decisions that are going to be good decisions.”


On the agenda
Meeting Thursday, the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen:
• Recognized the following employees on their anniversaries with the city: Steven Bailey, landscape, Paula Wright, community development, Douglas Erwin, right of way, and Randy Bennett, wastewater treatment plant, 20 years; and James Mullen, vehicle maintenance, Derrick Gardner, fire department, Percy Guy, sewer, and Lester, Jackson gas, 10 years.
• Proclaimed October Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
• Approved a resolution declaring October Female Veterans Month. Eva Ford, who asked for the resolution, said it would help people remember the female veterans who served their country, adding, “Women are now on the battlefield and flying and doing the things the men are doing and they are being overlooked. We want that to change.”
• Adopted the board minutes for March 31, May 9, 13, 23 and 29, and July 21.
• Added Senior Center employee Angela Kelly to the employee driving list.
• Approved the final payment of $11,247.25 for the taxiway lighting and electric vault project at the Vicksburg Municipal Airport.
In a related matter, the board approved a request for reimbursement from the Federal Aviation Administration for the project, and a second request for reimbursement totaling $145,241 for runway rehabilitation.
• Approved a request for complimentary use of the Vicksburg Auditorium on Nov. 10 by the Retired Education Personnel of Vicksburg and Warren Central for its annual meeting.
The board also approved a request from St. Aloysius High School to use the auditorium for May 22 to 23 2015 for graduation.
• Approved buying a $1,000 ad promoting the city from the Vicksburg Warren Chapter of the Alcorn State University Alumni Association.
• Approved a request from Vicksburg Main Street to use the Farmers’ Market site for the Fall Festival and Farmers’ Market.
• Approved an anti-drug and alcohol misuse prevention plan for the gas department. City Attorney Nancy Thomas said the plan is required by federal regulations.
• Approved a request from Lalisa Howard and William Jefferson to block off 605 Hutson St. from 5 to 11 p.m. on Oct. 11.
• Authorized Community Development Director Victor Gray-Lewis to clean and clear the following properties: 1104 Third North St., 39 Scenic Drive and 29 Scenic Drive.
• Approved a revised easement agreement with Kansas City Southern Railroad for the emergency road for the west side of Pearl Street. The revision adjusts the road location to allow the city to use public and donated railroad property.
The road will go west from Klein Street and then north along the KCS switch yard to Depot Street.
• Approved a grant agreement and certification for the $27,451 fiscal 2014 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. The money is divided between city police and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. The police department will use its funds to buy Tasers. The county funds will buy radios for the sheriff’s department.
• Approved hangar lease agreements at the Vicksburg Municipal Airport with Keith Gordon, David Johnson, Carl Flowers and Phil Lawson.
• Approved bank statements from Trustmark Bank and BancorpSouth.
• Approved the following reports: city sexton, privilege license, mayor and treasurer, delinquent tax collection, monthly tax collection and detailed budget.
• Approved the claims docket.

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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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