Board passes budget plan for new year

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, September 5, 2012

City aldermen have approved a $13.5 million budget for the next fiscal year, a budget that will hikes water, sewer and trash bills by $1.50 and bring a 2 percent pay raise to city employees and elected officials.

     Aldermen unanimously approved the general budget at Tuesday night’s board meeting, but a motion to exclude aldermen from the citywide pay raise failed on a 4-3 vote.

     Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes, Ward Six Alderman David Phillips and Alderman at Large Karen Sullivan voted on a proposal by Phillips to cut aldermen from the pay raise plan, but the remaining four aldermen voted to retain raises for board members.

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     Ward Two Aldermen Terry Bates criticized the three aldermen for the way they cast their votes.

     “You voted against something that was in the budget, then voted for the budget,” Bates said.

     “I’m hired to approve a budget,” Estes replied.

     Mayor Les Bumgarner did not allow further debate on the issue.

     The city’s millage rate will remain the same at 35.19 mills, but the Brookhaven School District’s millage is dropping slightly from 62.2 mills to 60.90 mills.

     The school district requested a little more than $9 million in funds from the city, said City Clerk Mike Jinks.

     “The way this works, the school requests a certain amount of money and Mike (Jinks) figures what millage rate will get that amount,” said Bumgarner.

     On a related note, aldermen voted to raise the fee for electric and gas permits from $10 to $20.

     Building Inspector Chip Gennaro told board members the fee has remained unchanged since the mid-1980s. He said discussions with local electricians indicated a fee from $20 to $30 would be reasonable.

     Aldermen told Gennaro to begin levying the new fees immediately.

     In other news, Solid Waste Department Supervisor Willie Smith appeared before the board and discussed cleanup efforts in the city from Hurricane Isaac. Smith told aldermen residents continue to mingle branches, limbs and other vegetative debris with garbage and other trash the city does not pick up.

     Smith added that vegetative debris should also be separated from things like furniture and lumber. He said if branches and limbs are commingled with furniture, his crews will skip it until they’ve dealt with clean vegetative debris that’s not mingled.

     Some city residents have also been throwing branches and other debris in the streets to try to get the city to come by and pick up, Smith said. Brookhaven Police will begin writing tickets for this, Smith warned.

     Local Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey also appeared before the board and thanked the city departments and local law enforcement for their assistance during and after the storms the area experienced last week.

     FEMA inspectors toured the county Tuesday and identified six or seven homes with significant damage, Galey said. Lincoln County may be granted federal individual assistance, but that is yet to be determined, he said.

     Former Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints football star Deuce McAllister also appeared before the board to discuss a waste management company he works with, Waste Pro. According to McAllister, Waste Pro intends to bid on the city’s garbage collection contract.

     “We want to be great corporate partners,” McAllister said. “It’s not just about taking out, it’s about giving back.”