Bay St. Louis city councilmen Joey Boudin and Lonnie Falgout on Tuesday's pointedly questioned Mayor Les Fillingame on the city's financial reserves.
"How quickly are we going to see a turn-around on these funds?" Boudin asked in reference to funds taken from the general reserve fund.
"We are looking at three to four week turn-around," Fillingame said. "We are just now getting in our revenues for this month. Our biggest issues are in the utility fund. We are 15-20 percent under projections. We had no winter and a wet summer so far.
"Cash-flow is the biggest concern we knew it would be a struggle this fiscal year," Fillingame added.
"How do you see us coming in at the end of this fiscal year?" Falgout asked.
"We'll be on it," Fillingame responded.
At the July 2 city council meeting, Joey Boudin opposed Fillingame's use of the city's reserves to fund the Main Street lighting project. Falgout and Councilman Mike Favre also voted against the proposal. It was approved by a vote of four to three to use the general reserve.
According to the the Mississippi State Auditor's Municipal Accounting Guide, a municipal reserve fund is defined as: "A fund to hold money in reserve for other funds for a fiscal year's unanticipated expenditures which were otherwise not budgeted. These funds may only be spent by board order for reserve purposes and as limited by the source of the reserve fund revenue. Interest earned on fund investments must be credited to the reserve fund. Legal expenditures shall be made from the fund upon requisition of the governing authorities of a municipality, spread on the minutes and signed by the mayor of the municipality, the secretary of the mayor, or the president of the city council or board of alderman. A municipality may deposit funds as needed into its reserve fund." (Section 21-35-22, Miss Code Ann. (1972))
"There is no set dollar amount. It varies greatly depending on the municipality," said Emily McNeil, CPA, manager, Technical Assistance Division, of the state auditor's office.
Interviews with officials in neighboring cities revealed the following regarding their general reserve fund amounts:
Waveland: $2.4 million.
Long Beach : $2 million.
Pass Christian: $2.5 million.
Earlier this month, Fillingame said that Bay St. Louis had about $250,000 in it's general reserve fund. The amount requested from the general reserve to pay for the Main St. lighting project was about $233,000.
"There is only one reserve fund; the general reserve fund is used for emergencies, for example hurricanes or a major sewer problem," Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott said last week. "I take care of the money I have. You spend what you take in, not more than."
"There are all kinds of reserve funds," Fillingame said Monday. "It all depends on what these funds are for. Bay St. Louis never had a true reserve fund. You always want to keep more operating capital, but sometimes there is just more trouble."
"We never had the need for a reserve fund, we always had cash balances to handle emergencies," said former Mayor Eddie Favre. "The city set it up a couple of years ago with the idea to put extra money away for a rainy day."
"Five years ago when I was elected, I was the first councilman to request bank statements," Boudin said last week. "The council is responsible for the budget, not the mayor if we run out of money, the citizens will look at us.
"We need to cut down on some central projects and lower the amount given to non-profits. They bring a great impact to the city, but I don't think it's measurable to the amount we put out.
"I think we should have at least two million in the reserve fund, like our neighboring cities. For a city this size, we need that much. I'm very impressed with the new council members, they are asking questions and that's a good thing."
In other action Tuesday:
Resident Chris Lagarde's Old Spanish Trail property was declared a menace to public health. Mr. Lagarde was given until Sept. 6 to remove any personal items that he would like to keep. After that time is up, the city has plans to come in and clean up the property.
Ron Thorp, of the Hancock Alliance for Good Government, requested
confirmation concerning the layoffs of part-time workers in the public works department.
"We have cut the hours of part-time workers in the beautification and grass cutting department from four to three days," Fillingame said. "This is due to the weather conditions and the budget going through the next two months ... . It's very temporary."
Fillingame said that various businesses in Bay St. Louis were among the top spots in the July/August issue of Mississippi Magazine. Among those listed in the Best of Mississippi issue were:
- Mockingbird Cafe, 4th for best coffee.
- The Buttercup, 4th for best breakfast.
- Bay Bridge Fest, 5th for best fair or festival.
- Bay St. Louis, 4th for best downtown area and best weekend trip.
- The Social Chair, 1st place for best gift shop.