City of Vicksburg releases $34.18 million 2024 budget

Published 1:38 pm Friday, September 8, 2023

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen unveiled a proposed $34.18 million fiscal year 2024 budget with a projected $2.01 million increase in revenue over fiscal year 2023 and cuts in several departments.

The budget was introduced at a Thursday public hearing attended by residents and city employees. Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said it will be approved on Sept. 15, which is the deadline for municipal and county budgets to be approved under state law.

Thursday’s meeting included a new budget item: a $2.1 million supplemental budget for projects and equipment pending available money.

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Included in the supplemental budget is $620,000 for new police cars; $100,000 for repairs to the Vicksburg Convention Center retaining wall and $109,300 for city building renovations. The police cars were removed from the department’s budget.

Flaggs has said the projects on the supplemental budget will be addressed if the city finds extra funds.

While discussing the supplemental budget, Flaggs said the city will have to address two issues affecting the general fund: the closing of Entergy’s Baxter Wilson power plant and a $742,000 estimated shortfall for garbage collection.

The city in June approved a new garbage collection agreement with Waste Management that saw an increase in fees and additional fees for collecting yard waste. Flaggs said city officials do not know the exact amount of the deficit, saying the $742,000 sum was determined by taking the cost of one month under the new contract and multiplying it by 12.

Flaggs said the city has implemented a plan to determine the actual costs of garbage collection, adding, “We just wait on the days to do that.”

Entergy closed the Baxter Wilson power plant in 2022, a move that will eliminate $760,990 in property tax revenue to the city. Flaggs said Entergy will continue paying the property tax through fiscal year 2024.

However, the payments end in fiscal 2025, he said, “So we’ve got to be ready for next year.”

During the public hearing, the mayor and the board were criticized by resident Marilyn Terry, who said the board has not been judicious with taxpayers’ money.

“This board is consciously deciding to prioritize giving away our tax dollars to your preferred non-government groups,” she said. “Has this board ever considered that maybe the reason we barely have 30 police officers at the police department or why we’re becoming known as ‘Small Jackson’ or why we have a budget shortage is because you’re giving away millions from our city budget to favored social groups and churches instead of funding these basic city services?

“Today in Vicksburg, Miss. we see the results of these spending policies that this board has voted on for years and that its population decreased,” Terry added. “Vicksburg is decreasing.”

Looking at the budget, property tax values declined by $258,000, from $9.76 million in FY 2023 to $9.5 million in FY 2024. Sales projections were up by $845,000, from $7.95 in FY 2023 to $8.80 million in FY 2024.

Flaggs said department budgets were cut between 10 and 85 percent with capital costs like vehicles and equipment being affected. The fire department budget was cut by approximately $74,000, while the police department was cut by more than $500,000. Despite the cuts, public safety had the city’s largest budget at $16.22 million, followed by the general government budget at $9.5 million.

Addressing the budget at a Friday morning meeting of the board, Flaggs called the budget hearing good.

“Everybody was OK with the budget meeting,” he said. “I think we’re doing great.”

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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