Layoffs and fee increase proposed in Gulfport

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It's a different city but similar story when it comes to budget woes and the economy in Gulfport.  But, amid the challenges, Mayor George Schloegel's administration says it has managed to tackle a persistent problem with the budget.

"We have erased the 9 million dollar deficit that we had last year," says Schloegel. "That balanced budget is going to be presented with no property tax increase on the tax payers of Gulfport."

The administration says it's done so with cuts to employee costs, which makes up 70% of the budget.  It proposes cutting 65 jobs.  Firefighters and police officers on the streets will not be included in those cuts.

"Roughly about 40 to 45 of those positions are vacant today which means that we have 20 to 21 people who might not have a job," says Gulfport's Chief Administrative Officer Dr. John Kelly.

According to the administration, recent changes could allow some of those who are laid off to get rehired.

"We made a decision to bring our Southwest Water contract in-house so there's going to be some jobs there," says Kelly. "There's a very good chance that some of those 21 to 22 people will be able to move into those jobs."

Among the other cost savings, the proposed budget calls for 5 employee furlough days.

Mayor Schloegel says the budget did try to leave one area, regarding employees, untouched.

"We haven't given any raises, but we haven't had any salary decreases last year or this year," says Schloegel.

Gulfport residents will also see increases to utility fees.  Fees for water and sewer, according to City Finance Director Mike Necaise, could go up any where between 2 to 8 dollars.

The next stop for the proposed budget is in front of the residents of Gulfport during a public hearing.  The public hearing is set for Tuesday, September 7th,  at 6 p.m. in Gulfport city hall.

The city council will ultimately vote on the budget the city ultimately adopts.

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