Round two of Biloxi furlough battle may turn out differently

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Round two of the Biloxi furlough debate may have a very different outcome for city employees. Earlier this month the council voted three to two against furloughs. On Tuesday, a resolution for six days of unpaid leave is back on the agenda. This time two council members not present for the first vote say they plan to be there.

Biloxi city officials say it's been a while since a balanced budget came out of city hall causing Biloxi to have to take millions of dollars out of its reserves.

"We're way down," said Council member Lucy Denton. "We're spending more than we're taking in. This is happening over a period of years between Katrina, the economy and the oil spill. So when we passed the budget, we actually had this included. The furlough was included."

Denton wants the council to take a second look at the furloughs it voted down so she's reintroduced the resolution.

"I just feel like we are being irresponsible if we don't take care of our money and spend only what we have," Denton said. "As the economy turns around, I'll be the first to delete these furloughs. "

According to Biloxi city officials, council members George Lawrence, Bill Stallworth and David Fayard voted against furloughs. While Clark Griffith and Tom Wall were in favor. If everyone sticks to their guns, the fate of Biloxi city employees may rest with Lucy Denton and Ed Gemmill.

"I was the one that recommended the six days. But I think at this point to get the support to get it passed, it may have to be lowered," said Gemmill. "I'm only one vote but based on some conversations I've had with some of my other colleagues, they won't support the six days at this time."

Gemmill said, "That's the largest part of our expenditure is personnel. We've cut to the bone everything we can elsewhere.Believe me it's not anything that any of the council members want to do."

He says furlough are a better alternative for city workers than layoffs or across the board pay cuts.

"The city council does not like taking money away from our employees or having to raise taxes or anything," Denton said. "This is not something that is just local. This is worldwide."

Biloxi officials say the furloughs would save the city $650,000. Denton and Gemmill say if furloughs pass, they want periodic financial evaluations to see if the furloughs need to be continued.

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