Gautier City Clerk quits over cuts in staff

By Patrice Clark – bio | email

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - A surprise twist Tuesday night in Gautier's budget wrangling. The city clerk resigned after watching her staff slashed and the police department's budget increased.

Gautier's city clerk Adrienne Howell didn't hold back her anger when telling the city council members they were wrong to cut six positions from her 15 person department.

"I have never had my legs cut out from under me like you have done now."

Howell also lashed out at city leaders for making such deep cuts, while at the same time boosting the budget of the police department by $500,000.

"Can you honestly say that this decision is for the betterment of your citizens," Howell said.

Citizens at the meeting echoed Howell's frustrations.

"We don't necessarily need 10 police cars this year. We have can have fewer to save a person or two's job," Gautier resident Brandon Gray said.

Mayor Tommy Fortenberry defended the budget cuts as a necessary evil. He said Gautier's sale tax revenues are down and the city is battling the recession like everyone else.

"It is difficult with the closing of stores in Gautier and the things that are going on. It is hard in a small town," Mayor Fortenberry said. "You spend a lot of sleepless nights dealing with the budget."

As for the budget increase for the police department, Mayor Fortenberry said the safety of citizens is the city's first priority.

"One thing I learned is we can't spend our way out of debt. We have to work our way out of this. The City of Gautier will have to live within the means of the City of Gautier."

The city did not have to raise taxes for the upcoming budget year. Now, of the $10 million plus budget, a little more than $3 million will go to the police department, and nearly $1.3 million will go to the fire department. The city said cutting the 12 positions will save the city $400,000.

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