Vicksburg mayor reschedules budget hearing, proposes $25,000 raise

Published 11:37 am Friday, September 3, 2021

Vicksburg’s fiscal 2022 budget is off the table and up for reconsideration after Mayor George Flaggs Jr. canceled Thursday’s public hearing on the proposed city budget, rescheduling the hearing for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Robert M. Walker Building, 1415 Walnut St.

Saying he received the proposed $31.4 million budget at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Flaggs told city department heads and residents attending the hearing, “It’s nobody’s problem but mine; I’m not ready.

“I don’t know this budget and I can’t recommend this budget to this board — a budget that I can’t read; that I can’t understand. I’m not going to put this budget before the public.”

Flaggs said he promised the public a balanced budget that included a 5-percent pay raise for police officers and firefighters and a 3-percent raise to other city employees.

“I’d like to give myself a $25,000 raise; I can do it (the raises),” he said.

He currently makes $106,520.12, following a $3,000 raise the board approved in 2019. A raise of $25,000 would put his salary at $131,520.12.

With the raise, Flaggs could be among the highest-paid full-time mayors in the state. In 2018, the most recent year data was available, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba made $119,999.36. In 2019, Biloxi’s mayor earned $115,898 according to local news reports.

Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy will draw a yearly salary of $122,421 after giving himself a raise of $35,999 this year, a move that was much-criticized up to the national level.

The Mississippi governor’s salary is set by law at $122,160.

Flaggs said the city has until Sep. 15 to approve the budget, adding he will present a balanced budget Tuesday.

“I’m a man of integrity,” he said. “I’m a man that if I say it and believe it, I can do it.”

Flaggs said he was going out of town Friday and would study the budget over the weekend and meet with accounting director Doug Whittington to prepare a balanced budget.

“We come back from Labor Day at 5:30, we’ll present something that is balanced; if not, we’ll come back that Wednesday or that Thursday,” Flaggs said after the meeting. “The law says you have to have it adopted by the 15th and you have to have a public hearing at least a week before,” he said. “We’ll do it on the seventh, we can do it on eighth or the ninth and we can still be in compliance.

“I have balanced too many budgets in my career and I know that budget can be balanced. … We’re just going to work with it. It can be done, we’ve got time.”

He did not confirm whether or not the city’s final budget would be $31.4 million.

“I can’t answer that because I have not read it; I can’t explain anything in that budget because I have not read it and it makes no sense for me to exaggerate on a budget I have not read. I deal in specifics. I’m not signing a check on the city’s account without the numbers put in place.

“I’m absolutely and emphatically comfortable with the decision I made tonight and as many budgets as I’ve done, this one just wasn’t ready and I wasn’t going to recommend it to the public.”

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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