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Board eyes budget, redistricting

Brookhaven aldermen are preparing for twobig projects that together will consume much of the coming year:negotiating next year’s budget and redistricting the city’swards.

    The board will hold a public hearing on Aug. 23 at 5:30 p.m. todiscuss the 2011-2012 budget.

    “There are some big things coming up,” said Mayor Les Bumgarner.”The budget will be our primary concern for the next twomonths.”

    A work session has been scheduled on Aug. 18 beginning 6 p.m. todiscuss the budget. Possible work sessions have also been scheduledfor Aug. 25 and 30 as it is determined whether they are needed.

    Bumgarner said he is optimistic the budget work sessions will gosmoothly.

    “There will be a few things to haggle over, but I hope most of itwill not be a problem,” he said.

    At Tuesday’s meeting, the board also took the first step towardredistricting. Bobby Smith, a representative from the SouthwestMississippi Planning and Development District, spoke aboutredistricting and gave a preliminary evaluation.

    Cities are required to redistrict every 10 years following therelease of the U.S. Census results. Smith said the population ofeach ward is allowed to deviate by no more than 5 percent from itsideal population.

    Ideal ward population is determined by dividing total citypopulation by the number of wards.

    According to Smith’s evaluation of the 2010 census, Ward Four has18.6 percent to many people and Ward Two has 20.3 percent tofew.

    Ward district lines throughout the city will have to be redrawn torectify the population inequalities. The city has until September2012 to comply.

    Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes is pleased she has seen suchgrowth, but said she will regret the loss of some residents shecurrently represents.

    “It’s a great thing that I haven’t lost anyone. There has been somegrowth downtown since the last census and that is a positive,”Estes said. “I’m anxiously waiting to see the first redrawnmap.”

    Bumgarner spoke to the board about the process, with the specter ofthe recently contentious citywide paving project hanging over hiswords.

    “We’re going to have to work together for the good of the city.There’s not going to be anyone happy when we’re done,” he said.”There’s going to have to be a tremendous amount of give and take.There’s going to be some areas people don’t want to take in, andareas people don’t want to give up.”

    City Attorney Joe Fernald pushed Smith for an estimate of how longthe process might take.

    Smith said the time required is highly variable and dependent onthe board.

    “Fixing it is easy if I did it. I could redraw the lines in fiveminutes and the numbers would be legal,” Smith said. “But no onewould like what I did. For the people who know the neighborhoodsthere will some hard decisions.”

    Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell suggested that Ward Four and WardTwo could simply be equalized between each other, but Smith pointedout that the Voting Rights Act requires minority voting strength bepreserved.

    Smith stated that based on rough estimates, population will have tobe moved clockwise throughout the wards.

    “It’s going to be some agonizing decisions to be made,” Smith said.”But you’re going to have to make them.”

    Redistricting is a fairly recent experience for the board members.When the city annexed surrounding areas in 2007, ward districtlines were expanded to take in the new areas.