Biloxi Council begins budget process

By Jeff Lawson - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Biloxi City Council on Tuesday began the difficult process of coming up with a budget for the 2010 fiscal year. The lengthy meeting at city hall began with a presentation from an accounting firm that did an audit for the city. It found that the city has spent more than what it has taken in for each of the past four years.

Council President Bill Stallworth does not dispute those numbers, but he said there is much more to the story. After the meeting he told WLOX News, "The city has a surplus, that is what the fund balance is all about. But, at the end of the day, we have a $21 million balance."

Stallworth and the mayor do not see eye to eye on this issue. The mayor concedes there is a fund balance, but that balance is dwindling every year.

"It is very tight," Holloway said. "Now some people don't like that. Some people are denying that, but those are the facts."

Councilman Stallworth asked a number of questions during the city's presentation on their budget woes and what to do about it.

At one point, Mayor Holloway told Stallworth he was on a "witch hunt." An aggravated Stallworth told the mayor he was offended by the remark. He added, it is his job as a councilman to make sure the city is spending its money wisely.

Mayor Holloway would only say, "I feel like somebody is trying to make us look bad and the administration look bad. We are doing our job and they are doing their job."

The city is projecting a budget deficit of nearly $10 million for next fiscal year.

Because of that, the city is considering several proposals. They include having city employees pay for at least a portion of their health care costs. The city could also raise water, sewer and garbage fees. Mayor Holloway said it is even possible, though not likely, that Biloxi could impose a mandatory furlough of all city employees.

The Biloxi council will hold several more meetings in coming weeks, before finalizing the budget for fiscal 2010.

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