Ocean Springs wants more money in residents' pockets

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - One coast city's strategy to boosting the local economy is putting more money into people's pockets. The Ocean Springs Board of Aldermen decided this week that pay raises for city employees and a property tax decrease for homeowners should be included in the 2010 budget.

A school bond passed last year will cost Ocean Springs homeowners more in property taxes this year.

"I don't mind paying if there is a good product, and we've been real satisfied with it," Ocean Springs resident Bill Moore said.

Ocean Springs city leaders say looking over the proposed 2010 city budget, they discovered that Ocean Springs could afford to give out more money and take in less.

"When we looked at our ending balances this year, we saw that there were funds remaining that were a little bit higher than what we were accustomed to," Alderman Matt McDonnell said. "We felt now is the time to give something back to the 18,000 citizens."

McDonnell, who represents Ward 2, said the city is now looking to ease residents' tax burden.

"We saw that we were able to decrease taxes by two mils. That should offset some of the increase that they will see from the bond issue because the school taxes will go into effect this year. It won't completely offset it, but it will give them a little bit of a break."

Officials say the savings will be about $20 for a $100,000 house with homestead exemption. The board also approved a $750 cost of living increase for all 180 city employees, and a four percent merit pay increase to be given at the discretion of department heads.

However, the city would trim charitable giving and have departments tighten their belts.

"We reduced some of the equipment purchases," McDonnell said. "We're going to delay some of the projects that we had on the books because we have a lot of projects going on now that we need to complete. We're going wait to see how the economy turns around. "

McDonnell thinks the economy will pick up because once people have money more, they'll spend more money.

"We feel it will not only help in terms of people having more money in their pocket, but it will help business owners where they won't have to pay quite as much tax," he said. "Maybe they can put that money back into their businesses and their employees."

The Ocean Springs Board of Aldermen is set to vote on the budget September 15th. That budget would go into effect October 1st.

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