Bay eyes cuts, new projects to fix budget
By Dwayne Bremer
May 20, 2014, 19:48
Members of the Bay St. Louis City Council said Tuesday that they want to continue cutting the city's budget when possible and also implement new ideas to help generate revenue.
The council met with Mayor Les Fillingame Tuesday at a budget workshop which lasted about two hours.
At a meeting earlier this month, council members said they were concerned about shortages in sales tax, property tax, and gaming revenues.
Fillingame told the council that although revenue projections for this year are down in several areas, so are costs.
Fillingame said personnel costs in the city's fire, public works, and beautification departments are all down this year.
"We have lowered costs through attrition," Fillingame said. "Because of our tight budget, we are going to maintain our current staff levels throughout the remainder of the year. We fully intend that we are going to continue to have a balanced budget."
Ward Five Councilman Joey Boudin, who called for Tuesday's workshop, said he approves of the cuts so far, but wants to see more.
"We have got to be fiscally responsible and live within our means," Boudin said. "I think the mayor has done a good job with the cuts so far, but there is a lot more to be done."
Boudin suggested the council consider several ways to generate revenue, including charging for medical services from the fire department; either liquidating public properties or charging appropriate rent for property usage, cutting travel, and consolidating loans to save money."
Earlier this month, Fillingame suggested the council approve a plan to refinance a $1.4 million bond payment and add an additional $2.4 million for capital improvements.
According to the mayor's plan, the city would be able to skip a $400,000 bond payment due in July, which would give it some cash-flow relief. The council would then decide whether to create a new millage to pay for it, officials said. That could result in the first millage increase in the city in more than a decade.
Ward Three Councilman Jeff Reed said he would entertain the mayor's request to refinance the city's debt if it would be beneficial to the city.
"I'm for this bond, but I also want to see us freeze hiring," Reed said.
Ward One Councilman Doug Seal said the city is doing more with less these days.
"Our budget is about $7.5 million," he said. "In 2003, it was about the same. With inflation, it should be about $9.3 million today. It is good that we can do this, but we are still going to be having these discussions unless we do something different."
Ward Six Councilman Lonnie Falgout suggested the city hire a company to help collect outstanding court fines.
"I think it is time we be proactive and take a look at some of these things," he said.
Councilman-at-Large Mike Favre suggested the city move personnel around for better efficiency and hire a grant administrator to help the city in that area. He said he is open to all options.
"I am not against this bond," he said. "I just want to make sure we have all of the facts before we vote on it."
Fillingame said he will continue to monitor costs, but he urged the council to restructure the debt as a first step.
"We really need to consider to what extent we want to restructure the debt," he said.
A firm hired to begin the bond restructure process was expected to brief the council on the pros and cons of the plan at Tuesday evening's meeting.
There was no vote on the measure by press time Tuesday.