Gautier leaders scramble to pay $500,000 bond bill

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Gautier leaders are now scrambling to find a half a million dollars to pay the city's bond bill.   Somehow, this bill coming due slipped through the budgeting process.

"It is inexcusable to miss a half million dollar payment."

Mayor Tommy Fortenberry is livid that taxpayer money was not budget for the annual payment on the city's $7 million bond bill.

"I am not happy about it, the citizens of Gautier are not happy about it, and we need to be responsible with the things that we do."

Last year, city leaders approved the bond issue to fund building a new fire station, police department, and also fix crumbling roads. Fortenberry said the City Manager Sidney Runnels told them they had until 2012 to pay the first payment.

"So this $468,000 was not budgeted in 2011," Fortenberry said.

Then last week, the mayor said Runnels came back to the council and said he and his staff got the date. The half a million was due by August 1st of this year.

"I think that is poor management and that is what I am hearing on the street too."

The city is now facing the big dilemma of finding the funds to make the payment.

"We have to pay our bills," Fortenberry said, "But I am very upset that it comes to this that we have to take out of our insurance fund."

Gautier's budget is already squeezed to the limit, and the mayor said the city will now have to tighten its belt even more because of the mistake.

"This will be the fourth year the citizens have not gotten a raise. We are working so hard to put back money to give them a raise this October budget and this is just like a hit in the stomach."

Fortenberry said future oversights will no longer be tolerated in his city.

"These are things that have to be watched and you can't be asleep at the wheel and managing a city," said the Gautier mayor.

City Manager Sidney Runnels didn't want to speak on camera about the oversight. Over the phone, Runnels told WLOX News that since he has been working for Gautier, the city has come a long way. Runnels said the city has to work together to pay this fee and move forward.

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