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Salary increases big topicin city’s early budget talks

Like their county counterparts, Brookhaven officials Tuesdayreceived a trimmed down draft of a new year budget that fundsnecessities but also addresses some salary issues.

City Clerk Iris Rudman said the $8.04 million general fundbudget was the third draft that she and bookkeeper Mike Jinks hadprepared after receiving most city officials’ funding requests.

“We’ve got it down to where we think it’s a pretty good budget,”Rudman said.

Rudman said the city is anticipating $5.3 million next year fromsales tax and other forms of non-property tax revenue. Althoughproperty tax projections were not final, the clerk said $1.3million would be needed from taxation for the new year budget.

Those revenue sources would combine with $1.2 million incarryover balance from this year to fund the budget.

Regarding expenditures, unless something was absolutelynecessary, Rudman said it was removed from budget plans.

“We cut as much as we could,” Rudman said.

The budget includes a 3 percent increase in funding for employeeraises. Elected officials were not included in pay raise plans,Rudman said.

“We had a lot of questions about raises,” Rudman said,mentioning $57,000 in raises for the police department, which is anarea of concern for city officials recently.

Raise amounts were the main focus of discussion at last night’smeeting.

Ward 2 Alderman Terry Bates questioned inclusion of $250,000 forthe Brookhaven Recreation Department to build four new tenniscourts. The courts would be built adjacent to the current courts onLipsey Street.

“We got people we need to deal with with their salaries,” Batessaid.

Alderman-at-large Henry Newman said he had mixed feelings aboutgiving percentage raises. With everyone getting the samepercentage, he indicated those with higher salaries would get morewhile those on the other end of the pay scale would get less.

After more discussion, Mayor Bill Godbold said there would be”hell in the camp” if aldermen tried to get into determining raiseamounts for individual employees.

“They’re going to raise Cain,” the mayor said.

Godbold said the board had taken away department heads’ abilityto hire and fire employees. He said raise amounts should be left totheir discretion.

“The man that works ought to get the money,” the mayor said.

Godbold indicated the police department raises were much neededin order to compete with pay scales in other cities like McComb andNatchez.

“We got to bite the bullet and get them up there, or we’ll loseall our qualified men,” Godbold said.

Aldermen accepted the resignations of three more officers lastnight. Police Chief Fred McKee said the department had lost 15officers in the last two years to other departments or the privatesector where pay is better.

Bates said police department salaries got out of align as muchas 15-20 years ago.

“We’re faced with the problem now, and it’s a big problem,”Bates said.

Regarding raises, aldermen expressed differing opinions on howthe money should be split. If the budget called for 3 percentacross the board raises, Bates said everyone should get thatamount, but Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameron said everyone may notdeserve that much.

“Just because he shows up for work, that doesn’t mean he’sworking,” Cameron said.

Ward 4 Alderman John Roberts said that last night was the firsttime aldermen had seen the budget totals, and they needed time toreview them.

Aldermen set up a budget work session for Saturday, Aug. 26, at9 a.m.

Newman said he appreciated the board’s budget discussionplans.

Earlier in the meeting, the alderman objected to the “bits andpieces” approach of aldermen and department heads coming to themayor and Rudman to have them prepare a budget without input fromthe board as a whole.

“I just think it’d be a good idea to sit down and for us to gothrough it,” Newman said.

A public hearing on the new year budget is planned for Sept. 5,the same day as the next regular board meeting. The new fiscal yearbegins Oct. 1.