Hattiesburg City Council sets public hearing for 2017 budget

Hattiesburg City Council sets public hearing for 2017 budget

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council will hold a public hearing for its proposed 2017 budget and tax levies on Sept. 6, 2016, just nine days ahead of a state-mandated Sept. 15 deadline to vote on a new budget.

Council President Carter Carroll, Council Vice President Mary Dryden and Councilperson Deborah Delgado voted in a special called council meeting Monday to hold the public hearing for the proposed budget at 6 p.m. on Sept. 6.

Monday's special called meeting comes after Hattiesburg Chief Financial Officer Sharon Waits presented the council an incomplete 2017 budget last Wednesday also at a special called meeting.

"I'm saying that my workload has been increased to a point that I cannot physically do everything that needs to be done within the time frame that I can do  it," Waits said. "It's a draft. It's not finished. It still needs work on it. There are some things that are not balanced yet, but the revenue numbers are firm. Those are good revenue numbers as far as our taxes and everything is concerned and our grants and sales tax. All of that. Those are good numbers."

Waits said the proposed budget does not include capital requests from city departments, salary increases for city employees or paving costs. Waits estimated the city would have ending cash balance of $2,210,530, with the city making $52,382,000 in revenue and spending $50,172,000.

Waits also broke down a proposed $624,000 increase in personnel costs, which includes wages and benefits, for the upcoming budget.

"What we are proposing is a mid-year increase for all employees of 50 cents an hour for all employees that would take place in April, and that would cost us in this budget year $457,518," Waits said.

The proposed budget increases Hattiesburg Fire Department pay in two areas. Recent fire academy graduate salaries would be increased from $27,600 to $30,000. Waits said 10 employees are eligible for that $2,400 increase. Sworn firefighter salaries are proposed to increase by $1,500 to match raises given to the police department during Mayor Johnny DuPree's time in office.

"The police department had received $10,000 per position, and the firefighters had received $8,500," Councilperson Kim Bradley said. "So there is a $1,500 difference."

Waits said, "So this increase that we're asking there would bring those firefighters up in parity with the police department that would match them in the amount of raises that had been done over this administration's time."

The final proposed personnel pay increase Waits presented is increasing the incoming mayor's salary to $110,000 and increasing incoming city council members' salaries to $25,000.

"I am totally uncomfortable with the idea of raising millage to increase the mayor's pay and the council's pay," Dryden said. "I'm just not comfortable. Not after we just increased water rates."

The council did approve a .64 millage increase for the 2017 budget to meet state requirements for the police and fire department disability and retirement fund and pay for the city's new public safety complex.