Small cities and towns face budget cuts - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Small cities and towns face budget cuts

By Kevin Wheeler - bio | email | Twitter

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The slow economy has had a U-turn effect on almost anything involving money.

"If we don't have the money, then we can't do things," said Columbia Mayor Reed Houston.

For the past few months city governments have been struggling. Houston said the city will have a smaller budget next fiscal year mainly because sales revenue is down.

"In Marion County unemployment is 11.8%," said Houston. "I don't know what it is in surrounding counties, but I know people here are hurting and also I think things are going up."

Houston said the police department will have to make cuts, but he says none of those cuts will be patrol positions.  He also said vacant positions in the city will not be filled. 

"The alternative is having to borrow money, the alternative is not meeting our obligations, or cutting services," said Houston.

The town of Sumrall has also seen a decline in sales tax revenue.

"We're hoping that it might pick back up and if it does we're going to look at the budget," said Sumrall Mayor, Gerolene Rayborn. "We just didn't want to plan on anything that knew we might not have."

Rayborn said the Sumrall police department will have to cut $18,000 from its budget.  She said most of that will come from overtime.

Sumrall police chief Willie Preston said he understands the need for the cuts.

"We hope to save at least 50 or 60 percent from what we experienced from the past," said Preston.

Preston said a lot of the overtime has accumulated from officers doubling up on shifts.  That will change when two officers go to training at the end of the month to be certified.

"Once the officers go get certified and come back then that will help us a lot," Rayborn said.

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