PICAYUNE, MS (WLOX) - Picayune leaders say years of pinching pennies has saved them from the financial turmoil other South Mississippi cities are experiencing right now. In fact, officials say their 2012 budget actually puts more money in employees pockets.
It was two years ago when Picayune officials said they realized tough economic times were just down the road, and they'd better getting prepared. Leaders said the city is reaping the rewards of those earlier sacrifices.
Picayune's 180 employees lost 12 days of pay to furloughs.
"We just rolled up our sleeves, tightened our belts," said City Manager Jim Luke. "Of course, we know what's going on in our nation. Times are tough. But a lot of preparation went into the city of Picayune preparing for the tough times."
Now the tough times have arrived for many South Mississippi towns. However, Picayune's mayor said his city is doing okay. In fact, employees will get better health coverage with lower insurance premiums and deductibles.
Mayor Ed Pinero said, "Our planning has definitely paid off. We will have no layoffs. We will absolutely not raise taxes. We will give back the furlough day. We're going to take the furlough off the table so that will in essence be another six percent for our employees, into their pockets."
City officials said while Picayune will have a no frills budget, it feels good to reward employees who've stepped up by doing more with less.
"Our police department has done logistics plans that's going to save about $20,000 a year in fuel," said Mayor Pinero. "Our director of operations, he's done some electrical planning with logistics which is going to save us another $15,000 to $20,000"
"If we can save $20,000 here, $20,000 there, it really pays off and we've been doing it for two years. Now we're really seeing the return. We know a lot of other municipalities are struggling, but we feel like we're on top of the world now."
The mayor said improving health insurance coverage for employees will actually come at no added cost for the city. That's because Picayune was able to select among several competing companies.