HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg residents could have a tax increase, depending on how the city council votes on the upcoming budget at Tuesday's meeting.
Council members are split on how they want to pay for street paving across the city. Some want to raise the millage rate to 1.85 mills, while others want to find funds elsewhere within the budget.
"It is unfair to put the burden of paving roads on the loyal property owners who have remained in the City of Hattiesburg instead of moving to surrounding counties," said Ward 4 council woman Mary Dryden.
Council president Kim Bradley proposed the idea of taking funds allotted to city employee positions that have not been filled in over a year, to pay for the paving.
"We're not closing the positions," said Bradley of the approximate 50 vacant positions he discovered. "That was never the intent."
However, Mayor Johnny DuPree said he spoke with Public Works director Larry Barnes, whose department has vacant positions, and discovered that directors would like to keep those positions open.
"It would have been nice if all of the other directors would have been afforded that same opportunity to say, 'Let me tell you why this is not filled,'" said DuPree.
The mayor also acknowledged that some of the positions Bradley listed to draw from were funded by grants, so that money would not be available to use for paving projects.
Ward 2 councilwoman Deborah Delgado said she supports the millage increase and would rather use the funds Bradley mentioned for city employee raises.
"I don't see myself voting for a budget that does not take those funds and put it to employee raises," she explained.
Hattiesburg's millage rate has not been raised since before DuPree took office in 2001.
The council must approve the budget, according to statute, at Tuesday's council meeting.