HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to approve a budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, and while she says it is atypical, the chief financial officer says it is a budget she is comfortable with.
"We've had a little bit of a different process in that normally, we have a great deal more time to associate, coordinate all of our efforts with all of our departments and to be able to consult with the council -gather up all the information and review it with them -regarding our budget," said Sharon Waits, Hattiesburg Chief Financial Officer. "We had some very, very strict time constraints this year. We were not able to follow that process as we normally do. However, we do have a budget that I am comfortable with. We do not have all of our capital needs in there at this point, but we do have sufficient funds in there to be able to assign some capital needs. What we will do is get this passed. Get the fiscal year started. We will present those request items for capital items to the council, and ask them to consider those and approve those with a budget amendment at the beginning of the fiscal year."
The money for capital requests that are approved will come out of the city's $3,370,865 ending cash balance, according to Waits, instead of being divided among departments and projects within the budget. The proposals will be presented to the council as budget amendments.
"I'm sure there's some disgruntled people with this," said Councilperson Kim Bradley. "A budget is just a starting point. We do budget amendments every month. Every other meeting it seems like. If there's something, if you're a director (and) something was taken out or something in your mind or something you were planning on doing, let's have that in front of the council. Let the council be a part of the discussion because we want to spend this money that we have in the best possible way that we can and get the most that we can out of it."
Waits said, "We do budget amendments relatively frequently. There's usually about one every other month. So that's not an unusual process. What is unusual is that we normally try to build in as much of the capital projects into the original budget as we can, and we were just not able to do that this year. But we will have that information all together by the time we do the first amendments."
Waits said taking money out of the ending cash balance as needed is the best solution.
"Considering our situation at present, yes," she said. "That's really the only thing we can do at this moment. We've got to have a budget in place, and, by law, we were required to pass it at least at this council meeting. So we will have a budget in place to begin our fiscal year, and we will move forward and make adjustments as we need as the year progresses."
The budget also includes a .81 millage increase for Hattiesburg residents, increased starting salaries for Hattiesburg Firefighters who are recent fire academy graduates and no salary increase for the incoming mayor or city council.
The 2016-2017 fiscal year starts for the city on October 1.