Biloxi City Council sits down to plan budget

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - As the 2011 fiscal year comes to a close, it's time for Biloxi officials to evaluate the city's finances.

"We'll basically be looking at all departments trying to figure out where we have money to take care of the city's needs," said Councilman Bill Stallworth.

The city council and other officials will begin the process of budgeting the next fiscal year on Tuesday. Their deadline is September 15.

Officials say the city's finances have improved since last year, but there are several areas of concern.

"The mayor has indicated that he wants to continue the furloughs, but I'm hoping that we can at least cut back on the furloughs, if not remove the furloughs," said Stallworth.  "It's very difficult for those employees who are at the bottom end of the scale to make it if you're taking pay away from them."

The city established six day furloughs for all employees last year as an alternative to layoffs.

Another area of concern is city water and utility rates.

"We are looking much better. We are finding ways to possibly lower the water rate, as we can lower it to say 60 cents per gallon versus what it is," said Councilman Ed Gemmill.

The ward six councilman is also looking to separate the non-departmental budget which includes the airport authority, coast transit and libraries.

"Those parts, the non departmental budget, are necessities. They are necessities. I don't think they should be categorized in the non departmental budget. They should have their own particular part of the budget," said Gemmill.

Another idea from Gemmill to boost city financials, is to slightly increase the renting rates of public buildings, like the new civic center and visitor center.

Stallworth said residents should be confident that officials will come out with a balanced budget.

"One of the things we really have to look at over the course of time is how to improve our financial condition," said Stallworth. "But, by the same token, not totally annihilate the social services that do so much in this area."

The meeting will be Tuesday morning at 10 in City Hall.

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