Slackening cash worries Laurel official

For months after Hurricane Katrina, Pine Belt cities and towns were swimming in sales tax dollars. But that flood is drying up. And a Laurel councilman is warning City Hall to be careful about spending.

"I just have a problem that we are scrapped for money, potholes all over town and we find it okay to give ourselves a thousand dollars worth of awards," says Ward 2's Tony Wheat.

He says now more than ever, city officials and employees need to be careful of how they spend taxpayer dollars.

And Finance Clerk Mary Ann Hess says sale tax revenues have fallen to pre-Katrina levels, while income from the tourism tax — levied on hotels and restaurants — is down about 8 to 9 percent from last year.

Hess say the drop in sales tax revenue was expected, but not the decrease in tourism.

Regarding the awards that city officials received, Hess says that money came from the general fund but it was included in the Laurel Housing Authority's budget.