Biloxi council debates value of employee furloughs

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi city leaders are struggling to trim their budget for next year and debating whether to continue furloughs. After a budget workshop Tuesday, some council members are questioning whether furloughs are really worth it.

"We went through the budget with a fine tooth comb, cutting every place we could," Biloxi Fire Chief David Roberts told the Biloxi Council Tuesday.

Roberts explained how he managed to cut $59,000 from his original $13 million budget proposal.

"Operating supplies, we cut by $10,000," Roberts said as he listed his department's budget.

And Biloxi Police Chief John Miller also chopped $648,000 from his initial spending request.

"We were asked to go in and trim any fat that we had, and I think we've done that," said Miller.

Then, councilman David Fayard asked the administration how much money did the city save by forcing employees to take six unpaid days?

"For the full six days, we'll save about $537,000," said David Staehling, Biloxi's Director of Administration.

Chief Roberts said if his department has furloughs, along with unexpected absences, he has to pay firefighters overtime to make sure the shifts are covered.

"Like last Saturday, I had to hire six extra people to keep the minimum manning. It doesn't happen every day," said Roberts.

"The $530,000 in furlough savings is not the actual correct number, because police are having to call people in at certain times. You're having to call people in on a regular basis," said Councilman Fayard.

"An increase by $288,000, I mean, there's something seriously wrong with that picture," said Biloxi Councilman Bill Stallworth.

The council members agreed that they want to get rid of furloughs next year, but a decision won't be made until the final numbers are in.

"No one wants furloughs. But we dealt with them, and we're going to do what we need to do in the future," said Chief Miller.

The Biloxi Council also discussed the library and port commission's budgets, insurance costs, and non-departmental spending. The council then held a public hearing on the budget proposal Tuesday night.

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