City looking at cutting, streamlining next budget

Published 6:58 pm Monday, August 6, 2018

When it meets for its first budget work session Aug. 16, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen will be trying to meet some benchmarks, including reducing the number city employees, in an effort to cut spending, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said Monday.

“We’re going to cut traveling back 25 percent; we’re going to cut training 25 percent, we’re going to go with a 97 percent budget,” he said at the start of Monday’s board meeting.

“We have every intention over the next three years of reducing the city employees by 45. I think we’re on our way; we’ve reduced at least nine or 10 already.” Flaggs has said in the past he will reduce the city’s work force through attrition.

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“As people quit, retire, we’re going to reevaluate their position to determine whether or not we should keep it,” he said. “More consolidation, more streamlining in this government because I still believe there’s $1 million or so that can be saved by streamlining.”

Flaggs pointed out several reasons for the move to cut spending and reduce the work force.

One, he said, is the rising cost of health insurance. Another is an increase in the city’s contributions to the state employees retirement system because of the recent employee pay raises.

“When you give a 3 percent raise, at the same time, your (retirement) benefits go up, anywhere between $11 to $14,” he said. The city’s share of its contributions to the retirement system, he said, has increased from 15.5 percent to 17 percent.

“That’s a 10.5 percent increase to the city’s share of the retirement,” he said. “That in real dollars is $276,000 and we’ve got to pay that up front. So in addition to the $588,000 it cost us to give you that 3 percent raise, now we have to come up with $276,000. That’s roughly $800,000 — almost $1 million that we’ve got to come up with. And it’s not for just this one year, that’s from now on.”

Flaggs said he intends to make some other changes outside of the proposed fiscal 2019 budget, saying he plans to make changes in what departments summer student workers and contract and temporary workers can work.

“We’re going to look at some policies,” he said. “One of the things we have to do is keep it where the personal records of the employees are protected. We’re going to adopt programs going forward — we will not hire temp workers in HR (human resources), finance and administration, the police department, or anywhere there’s confidential information. It’s got to stop.”

Flaggs said after the meeting no one has filed a complaint about their personal information being leaked.

“I believe in transparency but I don’t believe in gossip. There are some things you have to do to protect the integrity of your institution.”

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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