Billy McDonald remembers the greeting he got from his comptroller eight years ago when he became Pass Christian's mayor. "I walked in here on the fifth day of October. She said we had to borrow $80,000," he remembered. "We were flat broke."
That was 1995.
Last week, Pass Christian approved its 2004 budget. And the financial outlook was certainly looking up. According to the mayor, "We're as solid as the rock of Gibraltar."
The $12 million budget includes a three percent raise for the city's 101 full time workers. Roger Cotton is up for that raise. While he washed the floor at Pass Christian City Hall, the public works employees called the raise, "A blessing."
Mayor McDonald said the raise is just part of the good news coming out of next year's budget. "We're not going to raise taxes, we're not going to raise the garbage fee, the sewage fee, or the water," he said.
All of that was possible because of new sales tax revenue being generated by the city's newest retailer. If the first few months are any indication, Wal Mart could mean as much as a million dollars a year in Pass Christian taxes collections. But the city only put $480,000 into its 2004 budget. "We anticipate it being more, but we wanted to be very careful," the mayor said. "We don't ever want to get into a position where we have to borrow money again to get through the last three months of the year where you're robbing Peter to pay Paul."
With Wal Mart as its anchor, Mayor McDonald believes he can steer the city away from property tax increases for several years to come.