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City’s bottom line improves, sales tax totals fall

The city’s bottom line for fiscal 2019 improved by more than $200,000 after the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a series of year-end budget amendments to close out the fiscal year.

Vicksburg’s 2020 fiscal year begins Tuesday.

According to a budget analysis prepared by city accounting director Doug Whittington, the city saw a net increase in revenue of $294,188 and a net $74,152 in expenses. This left the city with a total net revenue of $220,036 in its general fund, which funds city operations.

Flaggs said the $74,152 in expenses “is not bad for the year.”

He added the $294,188 in revenue was a good figure for the year, pointing out the city’s revenue from gaming fees showed an increase of $263,000 for the year.

The report, however, showed some revenue areas declined during 2019, most notably sales tax revenue, which decreased $258,000 in 2019. Ambulance service fees also dropped $200,000.

Under the city’s expenses, several personnel areas, which include salary and insurance, increased, with police pay increasing by $280,000 over fiscal 2018, while firefighter pay increased by $140,000, and ambulance by $147,000.

Flaggs used the drop in sales tax revenue to criticize residents who shop online or go out of town to shop for some items.

“When you shop online, when you go to Jackson, particularly if you are a city employee, you are paying somebody else’s salary in that city,” he said. “When you go to Bass Pro Shop in Flowood, when you shop and buy goods, you’re helping Flowood pay their employees.

“If you go out to Walmart in Vicksburg and get it, you’re helping yourself. I thought I’d bring that up. You’re taking your money somewhere else, but you want all the amenities in Vicksburg,” he said.

“When you go across the Big Black, that money don’t come back,” he said.

“I’m going to tell you what that means to another board,” he said. “It means that somewhere in the future, if you don’t stop this decline in (sales) taxes, you’re going to see a millage increase in the city. I won’t be here to raise it, but somebody might have to do it.

“You can’t sustain this service and the quality we’re providing and at the level of quality we’re providing, without an increase into your revenue source.”

Concerning the drop in ambulance service fees, Flaggs said the city’s ambulance service is doing fewer non-emergency patient transfers from hospitals, which includes out of town transfers. Much of the non-emergency transfers are being handled by a private ambulance service.

Whittington said the high employee costs for police, fire and ambulance involve high health insurance costs and overtime caused by the 2019 flood.

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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