PETAL, MS (WDAM) - The outcome of a Friday morning board of alderman meeting in Petal is hanging a cloud over city hall.
At the meeting, amid a nearly $2 million deficit and a consultant on hand, the board voted to pass a resolution to borrow up to $800,000 to help meet city expenses until the end of the budget year in September.
The board also voted 4 to 1 to proceed with the layoffs of 25 city employees.
"I know that it would be a difficult time to be city employee," says Ward 4 Alderman James Moore who voted against the layoffs saying since the board already made a decision last week not to layoff anyone until the next budget year begins, the board should stick with the commitment. Moore said since that meeting there's been no new information to indicate immediate layoffs.
"I did not expect this to be the outcome, I expected this meeting to simply be a formality to move forward with borrowing the money that would have protected the jobs and we had promised would be protected," said Moore. "We made a commitment to the department heads and to the city employees that their jobs would be secure through the end of the budget cycle, based on borrowing this money."
Now that has changed, and the cuts are coming much sooner. Cuts Police Chief Lee Shelbourn said the city probably saw coming back in December.
Department heads will now have to make a list of employees to cut by Tuesday. At the police department, seven people will be out of a job. That's enough Chief Shelbourn says to possibly put the motto of "to serve and protect" in jeopardy.
"We're going to have to look at our priorities," says Shelbourn,
Chief Shelbourn said five sworn officers and two civilians will no longer be employed with the city. Road blocks are currently on hold as the department prepares to work with less manpower. Shelbourn says the concern now is the citizens of petal.
"We're going to do what we have to do in order to provide that quality service," said Shelbourn.
Overall, with the cuts the city hopes to save about half a million dollars. The $800,000 set to be borrowed will be paid back over a three-year period. Layoffs could happen as early as Wednesday morning.
"I can understand citizens who'd be upset; I can understand employees who would feel betrayed," said Moore.