BUDGET CRUNCH: Projects could face cuts, delays

Published 10:13 am Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Four proposed projects could put the city more than $400,000 overbudget unless the Board of Mayor and Aldermen makes cuts or delays work on some of the projects, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said.

The total cost for the projects is $1.26 million, and the city has a total of $770,000 in the fiscal 2016 budget to cover them. That means, Flaggs told the board Monday, the city will have to come up with $497,208 to cover the projected shortfall. He said the city’s budget oversight committee will meet Wednesday to look at the budget and discuss changes.

“I recommend we begin to look at it and see how we can make some cuts, hopefully in the general fund budget, before we start spending the bond money. I think it can be done,” he said “It’s just a matter of prioritizing the budget. We’ve got the money.”

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

With the exception of matching funds for a federal Transportation Alternative Program grant for renovations at the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad Depot, all the proposed projects were budgeted either in fiscal 2015 or this fiscal year. The list includes:

• Tennis court expansion at Halls Ferry Park to add four additional tennis courts.

The total project cost is $605,497. The city has $320,000 in Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks Land and Water Conservation grant funds to cover part of the project cost. The city needs an additional $285,497 to build all four.

The expansion was initially planned to build two courts, but South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson asked to amend the project to include two additional courts. The board voted 2-1 with Flagg opposing the change.

• Airport elevator, $285,711; $15,711 dollars needed to complete. The board in fiscal 2015 approved funding for the elevator as part of a renovation project at the Vicksburg Municipal Airport to renovate the terminal to include a second floor meeting room. The low bid came in over the budget for the project.

4Depot renovations, $30,000.

The city in February received an additional $120,000 in federal transportation grant funds for the renovation project and must come up with an additional $30,000 match, which was not budgeted in fiscal 2016.

The city in 2014 received $537,475 federal grant for the project. The grant pays for 80 percent of the renovation project costs.

4Downtown parking garage. The cost to install new lighting and video cameras for increased security of the downtown parking garages, $346,000. The city budgeted $180,000 for the project in fiscal 2016, which means the city has to come up with $166,000 to cover the project cost.

“In all honesty and looking at the budget, I think it’s there,” Flaggs said. “We will have to make some tough decisions, but we’re going to do that and I hope to at least make a recommendation to the board, but I hope to be able to do that and preserve some money for employee pay raises.

“I think it’s so important that we increase the employees pay, at least the minimum wage needs to go up another 25 or 50 cents, and then the beginning fire fighters, we need to do something there. All our options are open, but I think first we need to cut $497,208 out of the budget and then go from there. I think it could be done.

“I’d love to present you a balanced budget after meeting with the committee. Everybody board is going to be challenged with developing a budget and an effective succession plan,” Thompson said.

“It’s a matter of prioritizing. Surely if we can give a raise, we can pay for those other things we have to do, so the money is definitely there. I look forward to working with you guys to improve our highest efficiency.”

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said the city’s money problem was not due to mismanagement.

“ It’s just that so many things that come against us — some of them in the old, some in the new — that we have to figure out a way to fund some of those projects, and I think if we sit down to the table a couple more times at least, we can figure these things out and stay within our budget and at least come out smelling like a rose, at least that’s what we’re shooting for.”

“Things have happened this past budget year, so that kind of changes your priorities,” Thompson said. “It forces you to pay attention to what you have and what your expenses are going to be. They change; that’s not something that’s static all the time.”


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.

email author More by John