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Budget draft holds line on services, taxes

A preliminary general fund budget for the new year maintainscurrent municipal services while calling for no increase in theproperty tax levy, city officials said.

An early budget draft anticipates $8.43 million in general fundrevenue and $8.60 million in expenditures for the new year thatstarts Oct. 1. The proposal leaves approximately $160,000 thatwould have be covered with carryover funds from the currentyear.

“This is just the first pass at the budget …,” said Mayor BobMassengill last week while distributing the spending plan toaldermen. “Nothing is in concrete.”

A public hearing on the city’s budget is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.Tuesday in the city boardroom. City officials are expected tocontinue budget discussions during a work session following thepublic hearing.

Massengill and City Clerk Mike Jinks have been preparing thebudget proposal for the board’s review. Before budget adoption,aldermen will have final decisions on a variety of city revenue andexpenditure issues.

Employee health insurance costs came up during a work sessionlast week on the city’s water and sewer and solid waste budgets.Additional board action on those budgets is not expected.

Massengill said officials are looking at options in hopes ofavoiding an increase in insurance premiums. City budgets have beenprepared based on no increase.

“We’re making an effort to keep it no more than the currentlevel,” said Massengill, adding that he would discuss insuranceplan options Tuesday.

Mentioning a “tremendous amount of claims” in the last year,Massengill said two insurance providers refused to offer proposalsfor city coverage. It is against the law to discuss specificsregarding individual employees’ health situations.

“Our claims over $10,000 in the last 12 months have beenunreal,” Jinks said.

In another personnel matter, the budget has a 3 percent increaseallotted for employee pay raises.

However, Massengill is seeking to award raises based onemployees’ job performance. Employee attendance and disciplineproblems have been mentioned in recent board meetings.

“I want to be able to give those who are performing well morethan those who are just showing up (for work),” Massengillsaid.

Also included in the budget is $120,000 for paving. That means$15,000 for each ward, with another $30,000 to be determined basedon citywide needs.

“Our hope is we will be able to do that,” Massengill said. “Weknow we’ve got streets that need to be paved.”

Not yet included in the budget is $125,000 to match a requested$150,000 Small Municipalities grant being sought to assist withrelocating the Brookhaven Police Department to the old MississippiHighway Patrol building on Highway 51.

In applying for the grant, aldermen approved the matching grantsfunds and officials indicated they would be added to the new yearbudget. If the grant is not received, Massengill said the citywould not be able to do as much as hoped for regarding the buildingimprovements for the relocation.

“We’re committed to moving the Police Department,” Massengillsaid.

Jinks said the spending plan projects no increase in the generalfund property tax levy. It has remained at 23.08 mills since the2001-02 budget year, according to a tax levy analysis.

City officials are awaiting final property values before settingthe total tax levy, which will also include millage for schools anddebt service on prior years’ bond issues.

Officials hope to wrap up budget work by late August and beready to approve the new year budget in early September at thelatest.