Biloxi battles budget Tuesday

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Ahead of Tuesday's budget meetings, Mayor A.J. Holloway tried to focus on the positive impact of the Labor Day weekend on his city.

"It looks like it's been a big weekend from what I've seen so far.  The cars going into the streets turning into the casinos have been huge this weekend," said Holloway.

But, the mayor said the reality is, these types of weekends are few and far between.

"We've been living on gaming money for too long.  Gaming money's gone down, sales tax have gone down, ad valor um taxes are down," said Holloway.

Holloway said it's been that way for the past two years due to the down economy.  The city administration said Biloxi is looking to spend about six million more than it has coming in.  He said it's time for some tough decisions to be made.

"We're gonna have to do some things that's gonna be unpopular. That's gonna be tough to do, but I think we're gonna have to bite the bullet," said Holloway.

Like last year, water and sewer are among the rate hikes city leaders said residents will likely see.  Council President Clark Griffith said some of the cost results from debt incurred after utility services were consolidated county-wide after Hurricane Katrina.

"When you see your water and sewer rates go up you say, well, I'm not using any more water and not flushing anymore than I'm doing before. But, the frustration is that the debt hasn't gone away that gave us the capability to do all of this," said Griffith.

Employee pay and benefit increases over the past few years have also strained the budget, according to the administration, as the economy soured.

"Maybe some furloughs or some cuts in salaries. I hate to say that, but this picture is not pretty. We're gonna have to do some things we don't like to do that we've never had to do in the past," said Holloway.

Though employee deductibles have already been doubled, insurance is another area the council plans to take another look.

They are tough decisions during some tough economic times for Biloxi, but ones, city leaders said must be made to keep the city solvent.

"The council and the administration just have to get their heads together and get the numbers right," said Holloway.

The administration said the city might also have to reduce funds for non-departmental areas of the budget like donations to charities by as much as one half.

Tuesday morning there'll be a work session concerning the budget and insurance.  Three members of the council have formed a special insurance committee taking a closer look at the issue.

The council could take a vote on the budget as early as Tuesday afternoon.

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