Audit finds city in good financial shape

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Brookhaven has passed all its compliance testing for the2007-2008 fiscal year, said accountant Pat Lowery while presentingthe audit results to aldermen Tuesday night.

Lowery said the city’s general funds balance went up. He said itwas very healthy, especially for the state of the economy.

“I’m glad to see such a strong fund balance, especially with theeconomic climate like it is,” he said.

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The city’s two main revenue sources include property tax and salestax, Lowery said.

Mayor Bob Massengill told the board a bit later that Brookhaven’ssales tax, as compared to 21 cities of the same size in the state,ranked third in sales tax dollars. The only two cities higher wereOxford and Corinth, Massengill said.

In other business last night, new Ward Six Alderman David Phillipsbegan his tenure by recommending replacements to the two cityboards he served on before his election as alderman.

Phillips said he chose attorney Shelley Harrigill to his positionon the planning and zoning board and local businesswoman ConnieHooper to the comprehensive planning committee. The board approvedhis recommendations.

“Shelley’s education and her knowledge as an attorney will be veryhelpful, and she’s willing to serve,” he said. “And Connie haslived in other successful communities and will have a goodperspective as a small business owner.”

In addition, the board also discussed the latest update in severalairport projects. Airport board officials have been working forsome time on securing grant funds through the Federal AviationAdministration, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, andthe state for several projects that have been under way at theairport.

The projects, which include new asphalt taxi lanes, a set of 10 newhangars and a fuel farm, seemed to have taken a hit when it becameunclear whether funds would be available for 2008. Officials weretold that if the funds do not come through for the year, thatground could be made up in the next two years.

Massengill told the board that with the funds secured alreadythrough 2007, work needs to be begun so the city does not lose thegrant money it has already received.

“We’re trying to be prudent in the decisions we make on that, andwe don’t want to lose a $289,000 grant by taking too long to make adecision,” Massengill said.

The mayor said he believes construction should begin.

“It’s my recommendation, and you all know how conservative I am,that we go ahead with the construction of the taxi lanes,” hesaid.

Massengill said the city would pay the difference, based on thepremise that the funds will be recovered in 2009 or 2010 if fundingdoes not come through for 2008.

“We don’t know if we’ll get the rest of the ’08 funds, and if wedo, then great,” he said. “But if not, we’ll make it up in ’09 or’10 funds.”

The mayor assured the board that the fuel farm project is notaffected by the funding issues.

“We’ve put a lot of work into this, so if you feel good about it, Ido too,” said Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell.

The board voted unanimously to begin working on the hangars andtaxi lanes.

Also Tuesday, Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes updated the boardon her visit to Natchez through the First Impressions program.Estes said she was enlisted as an out-of-town perspective in atwo-day evaluation of the town’s pros and cons, much like oneBrookhaven underwent recently.

“It was really interesting to have that kind of a bird’s eye viewon another community,” she said.

Estes said one of Natchez’s biggest assets in her eyes was what shecalled “pocket parks,” where there were small garden/park areas inrandom places throughout the city.

“I saw a lot of pride in those neighborhoods, and I see a lot ofpride in Brookhaven,” she said. “I’d like to see more parks here inthe areas where there are children.”

She said First Impressions officials had told her they were notsure when Brookhaven’s review would be complete.