City of Gulfport defeats its deficit in 14 months

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Jessica Bowman – email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The city of Gulfport is debt free. After being more than $9 million in debt, Gulfport's mayor now says the city stands on firm financial ground.

Bankruptcy was not an option, especially for a city run by a former banker. Fourteen months ago, Mayor George Schloegel challenged city leaders to cut costs without cutting city services or jobs.

"Which means you can't save paper clips and rubber bands and make the budget balance," Mayor Schloegel said. "You've got to deal with the big number and the big number is personnel expense."

Mayor Schloegel said he's glad the city found ways to make up the $7 million in personnel cuts the city needed without layoffs.

"We solved our problem on personnel with what we call an attrition program. Managed attrition. When somebody left for retirement or for another job, instead of filling that position, we made up for it with the people that were left."

They also managed to avoid cutting base pay, though firefighters and police officers have seen smaller paychecks.

"We quit paying double time for holidays. That's primarily to police and fire. We dropped that down to time-and-a-half, but they still get time and a half," said Schloegel.

Gulfport raised water and sewer rates to offset a $2 million deficit in that department. Now to avoid sinking back in the hole, Schloegel said it's important to follow the same path.

"We're coming back okay and we're going to make this thing because all of our team is pulling hard together."

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.