BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - They spent weeks sorting through page after page of budget recommendations. On Tuesday, cities and counties had to approve their budgets.
Biloxi has plans to spend $594 million in the next 12 months to run the city. Much of that money is from FEMA to repair hurricane damaged properties. Because of the bad economy, the FEMA money was critical. Without it, spending in Biloxi would have been greatly curtailed. Low sales tax projections made this year's budget battle quite a struggle.
In the end, Biloxi council members did what they could to protect their employees.
Bill Stallworth is the council president.
"Our employees won't be getting a raise, but they don't lose their insurance," he said. "And we've been able to keep everything else without firing or laying off anybody."
Water was the last funding issue Biloxi council members waded into. They occasionally got into lather as they debated just how much higher water and sewer rates should be. The discussion was whether to adopt a one year water rate plan, or a four year plan.
David Fayard favored the four year concept.
"The one year plan we're looking at is a short term solution to a long term problem," he said.
However, Clark Griffith didn't like that concept, because of the economy's uncertainty.
"I just think it's too big a chunk to bite. And there are too many unknowns," he said.
Because others felt the same way, the council ultimately chose the one year water increase option. It tacks on 10 cents to your sewer bills, 10 cents to every 1,000 gallons of water you use, and an additional $1.76 surcharge per thousand gallons.
Lucy Denton said that was the right way to go.
"We need to just do exactly the preferred option and see next year, look at it then," the ward three councilwoman said.
This will be the first water rate increase in Biloxi since 2001.
As you might guess, Biloxi council members factored the weak economy into their final budget. Only projects slated to come out of the ground in the next 12 months go the funding they needed. Consequently, the council's president seemed satisfied with the work his team did to pass the city's financial plan for FY 2010.
"I think we've done a good job," Stallworth said.