No tax increase for Hattiesburg means city positions pay for paving

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council approved the city's budget 4-1 (Delgado) Tuesday, which means a millage increase is not in store for residents of the Hub City.

Instead, the council approved the use of funds from 37 vacant positions to use for the city's street paving project. Council president Kim Bradley said those positions would generate around 600,000 dollars.

"We're going to go from almost zero dollars to a significant amount of money that we can go and start fixing some streets with," he said.

However, Ward 2 councilwoman Deborah Delgado said that form of funding was not the way to go about this project when city employees deserve a raise.

"We are in a situation where we close the public's mouth," she said. "We don't want to hear the voices. We don't hear input from them about what we're doing here."

In Monday's work session, Mayor Johnny DuPree said he had spoken with Director of Public Works Larry Barnes about the vacant positions in his department, and the mayor said Barnes wanted to keep them open for future use.

DuPree said Tuesday that some positions Bradley wants to take the money from were not filled for a number of reasons, including lack of proper equipment or qualification. He also said that Bradley's calculations were incorrect concerning the number of positions that had been vacant for more than one year, which is how Bradley justified his plan.

"We will visit this situation whenever it needs to be visited," said Bradley of department directors wanting to take positions back in the future. "I promise it's not a manipulation thing."

Bradley said the combination of those funds and monies already allotted to the road and bridge fund equal to approximately three million dollars for the street paving project.

Now that the council has approved the budget, it is in the hands of the administration.

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