$42.5 million budget includes pay raise for city employees

Published 9:54 am Friday, September 16, 2016

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has approved a $42.5 million fiscal 2017 general fund budget that includes a pay raise for city employees, and no tax increase.

“I think it’s a good budget,” said Mayor George Flaggs Jr. “The best part about it is it’s the last budget of this administration (municipal elections are in 2017). This is the fourth budget we have passed.

“It speaks volumes for this board in that we came in with a $490,000-something deficit from the last administration, and after passing this budget, we will still have $3 million in reserve.”

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The proposed fiscal 2017 budget is composed of revenue from sales, property and gambling tax, outside sources such as state and federal funds, and income from permits, fees, court fines and interest on savings totaling about $29 million, with the remainder coming from the city’s $9.2 million capital improvements bond issue, plus loans and special grants making up the balance of $13.2 million.

Because the bond money and other loans are designated for certain projects, it means the city has about $29.5 million to operate government during fiscal 2017.

The city’s largest source of revenue is property tax. The city assesses 35.88 mills in property tax, which is projected to raise $9 million in fiscal 2017. Sales tax is expected to generate about $8 million, with gaming taxes raising $5.28 million, and other revenue sources producing about $6.5 million.

The initial budget presented at the board’s annual budget hearing in August, showed a projected $396,000 shortfall. The budget approved Thursday shows an anticipated $3,374 fund balance, due in part to the new ambulance agreement with Warren County, in which the county will pay the city $350 per dispatched run and $208,000 to help cover the cost of operating the fire department’s rescue unit.

Flaggs said the city’s overall financial picture is good.

“We have one-time spending of $101,000 for the election, our cash on hand is about $1.67 million surplus carryover from last year,” he said, “(It has) A cash balance of $8.15 million; it has in there about $425,000 for a pay raise, $400,000 of it is from the FY surplus that we did not put in the reserve, and we added $25,000 from a $351,00 surplus to make sure we have enough.”

South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson said the city has been faced with unexpected problems like the clarifier problem at the wastewater treatment plant on Rifle Range Road, the problems at the water treatment plant on Haining Road and street and water and sewer line problems.

“When those have happened, we’ve been able to make sound decisions and still be able to be in a financially strong position. I think that is quite an achievement in itself,” he said.

“I feel good about it,” North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said of the budget. “Only time will tell. If we stay on the same course, I feel we can (grow). It’s hard to get where you want to go when you sit and think about things too long. You either don’t act or you act too late.”

He commended Flaggs and Thompson, adding, “We don’t know who will be sitting here when we do this again, but at least if we’re not here, we can say we did what was good, what was best, and most of all what was right for the city of Vicksburg.”

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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