Raises are on Brookhaven aldermen’s budget wish lists

Published 11:29 pm Friday, August 25, 2017

The newly-elected alderman for Ward 2 would like to see city workers get cost-of-living raises and a community center swimming pool become reality this year, but neither will likely happen.

Still, Shannon Moore said, it’s something on his agenda.

Moore and the other six aldermen, including Alderwoman-at-Large Karen Sullivan, will work through the details of the city’s next budget on Aug. 29 and Aug. 31 at work sessions held in the city’s boardroom. Each session begins at 5:30 p.m. No votes can be taken during the sessions, but the public is encouraged to attend to see how their tax dollars will likely be spent.

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The public will have a chance to address the board with any concerns about the proposed $12 million budget at a hearing Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

Aldermen will likely vote to approve the budget on Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. The budget must be approved no later than Sept. 15.

So far, the proposed budget will likely not cause an increase in taxes, but also won’t provide raises to city employees. It will, however, be able to fund a much-needed animal shelter.

City Clerk Samantha Melancon said the budget looks to even out with a decrease in revenue overall, but an increase in sales tax.

“We are showing a slight decrease in revenue overall; however, we are projecting an increase in sales tax,” she said. “The slight decrease in revenue is due to less grants being received in this year’s budget, thus far.”

City employees were not given raises in 2013. Since then, they received a 3-percent raise across the board in 2014 and a 2-percent raise in 2015. That raise excluded elected officials.

In 2016, 3-percent raises were given to weekly paid employees and 2-percent raises went to employees who are paid semi-monthly, Melancon said.

“I’m not happy with not giving workers raises because I believe a raise is an incentive to improve job performance and build morale,” Moore said.

Moore, 43, said creating a sound, fiscal budget has been a learning process for him.

“I’m pleased with the city getting an animal shelter and everything that the city proposed become a reality but I’m not satisfied with the way other things are being thrown out and not considered because it may benefit a certain group of people,” he said. “I would be satisfied with budgeting a community center swimming pool and parks in the near future. It is important that the city provide something for our youth in the city because they are our future leaders.”

Melancon said once the city’s projected revenue is calculated, the department heads’ requests are taken into consideration.

“We try to accommodate their requests as allowable,” she said.

The general fund, which will not see an increase in the tax levy rate, will pay for an animal shelter, a new fire station and airport improvements.

“Grants were received to help fund the construction of the fire station and airport improvement,” she said.

The fire station is expected to cost $850,000. The city has received a $625,000 grant to help pay for it.

Aldermen haven’t decided where the fire station or the shelter will be located.

Airport improvements will be fully funded by a grant. In July, the airport received a competitive grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation for $173,903 for improvements. 

Sullivan, 75, who is in the beginning of her third four-year term as alderwoman-at-large, said the board strives to keep in mind that their decisions directly affect the quality of life of the community.

“To me, the budget is an indicator of our values,” she said. “Our priorities are defined by what we are willing to use taxpayer money to pay for. The available resources we allocate to fund vital services are scarce every single year. Our needs always seem to exceed our resources. However, I am extremely proud to be a part of a board that recognizes the importance of our city remaining fiscally sound.”

Sullivan hasn’t given up on raises yet, though she doesn’t want to see the city’s elected officials earn more than they do. Aldermen as of March 6 earned $18,447 annually. Sullivan, a retired educator, earns $15,281.

“I hope the budget can include cost-of-living raises for our employees,” she said. “The elected officials will not be receiving a raise, and I am happy about that. We still have two more work sessions before we finalize this budget.”

In March, aldermen were shown a preliminary floor plan of the new shelter. Based on the plan, the shelter would cost about $150,000 including site preparation and construction, said Mike McKenzie, an engineer with WGK Inc. The final cost would be determined by where the city wants it built. The current shelter sits at the end of a dirt road that winds past piles of debris at the city dump. Two rows of dog runs, about 18 total, are covered with a sheet-metal roof. One wall is closed in with sheet metal. The other side is open.

Mayor Joe Cox said earlier this year that $100,000 out of the city’s general fund has been earmarked to build the shelter.

The shelter saw about 300 dogs last year.

“A bigger, nicer dog pound for the city is long overdue,” Sullivan said. “We need to be humane dealing with the animals we must pick up. Funding something that most citizens never see may seem an unnecessary expenditure to some but many city improvements aren’t seen by us on a daily basis.”