When considering projects, city board needs to stay within its budget

Published 10:25 am Wednesday, March 23, 2016

In its well-meaning efforts to improve Vicksburg and make it more attractive to its residents and visitors, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen has created a $497,208 monster that must now be cut down to size.

What the board has done is approve four projects for the city that, if completed, will mean the city will spend more money than it has in its fiscal 2016 budget unless it makes cuts in other areas to come up with the money.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. in the past has warned the board about overreaching and pushing the spending limits of the city’s budget, and now some departments could suffer a loss of funds because of the board’s decision to build these projects.

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There is one simple way to handle this. As Flaggs has said, stay in the budget.

The city has the money in the budget to build two additional tennis courts at Halls Ferry. It should build them and delay construction of the other two until it has the money to build them. It could possibly include the courts in the proposed capital improvements project planned for fiscal 2018 and funded by the remainder of the $18 million bond issue it approved in August.

Do we really need an elevator for the airport? Renovating the terminal to include a second floor meeting room is a good idea for an underused building, but an elevator is a luxury that can be put on hold, saving $15,711.

The city already has a $537,475 federal grant it received in 2014 for the depot repairs and work has not begun on the project. The $30,000 match for the $120,000 extra grant money the city received in February was not budgeted. Because the project is expected to take several years, the $30,000 can wait and be included in another budget.

While we commend the city for wanting to move forward and improve the city, we must also warn them they are walking a narrow path that could put the city in a serious financial bind if the wrong decisions are made.

The board has produced a very good record of fiscal responsibility since taking office in 2013, and it needs to keep that record sound. It approved a very tight budget for fiscal 2016, and it needs to stay within the bounds it set for itself when it passed the budget in September.