GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A few weeks ago, Gulfport city leaders were faced with a daunting task: Get rid of millions in debt without cutting any city employees.
The debt started at $11 million, then went down to $4 million. Now after Monday's brain-storming session, leaders in Gulfport are confident they have a plan to get the city back in the black.
"The city council is telling me that they want to get it down to zero and I am delighted to hear that message," Mayor George Schloegel said.
Council members and the city administration crunched numbers in hopes of formulating a budget that would rid the city of $4 million worth of debt without getting rid of city employees.
"We're trying to keep every city employee, employed," Ward four Councilman Rusty Walker said. "It's a really tough job market and they are all important to us. And they've all expressed that they will do whatever it takes to pull together as a team and try to get the efficiencies that we need to try and operate our government so that we can meet our revenue projections."
Walker said the key will be following the historical trend as long as Mother Nature cooperates.
Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines has other ideas.
"In order to keep the employees that we have today, we're going to have to consider some out of box discussion, and furloughs is first," Holmes-Hines said. "Park some of these cars to save gas, conservation with some of these utilities. And then, of course, we may need to look at some of the hard ball things which would be education and longevity and salary cuts."
Leaders say after conducting a poll, they found that most city employees are not opposed to furloughs, but that's the council's last option. Instead, they plan to cut overtime, reduce their projections for sales tax revenue and other miscellaneous expenses.
- The new budget proposal will cut an additional $700,000 from the mayor's proposed budget.
- $450,000 cut from overtime
- $150,000 cut from miscellaneous expenses
- Reduce $20.7 million to $19.8 million in sales tax revenue projections. That's based on a historical trend, if we aren't hit by a storm.
- No pay cuts across the board to any positions