Is a casino the right gamble for Waveland?

WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - Mayor David Garcia is adamant that Waveland must become more competitive to lure in new revenue opportunities, and dig the city out of its budget crisis. Garcia said one funding opportunity could be a casino developer. According to Garcia, the city must amend its charter to allow a casino inside Waveland's city limits.

"We do have an area on the beachfront where casinos can go," he said.

That area is along Beach Boulevard between Terrace Avenue and St. Joseph Street. That quarter mile strip that was just rezoned commercial.

"We're going to be openly shopping for a casino," the mayor said, "because that would help us."

Garcia noted a casino development in Waveland would create jobs, bring in new revenue, and lower the millage rate.

"We've gotta do what we've gotta do to offset this millage," said the mayor.

Garcia said aldermen would likely discuss whether to amend its charter and allow casino development at their meeting in September.

The mayor mentioned the casino concept while driving back from Jackson.  He went to the state auditor's office to go over the city's financial mess, and explain what's being done to make sure Waveland doesn't bounce any checks.  Garcia returned from that meeting with his marching orders from the state auditor Monday: Get money in the bank before you start hiring back the city's furloughed employees.

Garcia left his two hour meeting in Jackson understanding that a tax increase is the only way Waveland can get back on its feet.

"We're going to do what we've got to do," the mayor while driving back to Waveland. "But we're going to pull out of this."

On Friday, Garcia indefinitely furloughed all non-essential city employees. He trimmed the fire department to one firemen per shift. And he cut the police force to one patrolman per shift.

"It was hard for me," the mayor said, admitting that he shed a few tears after sending so many people home.

But he said, the cuts had to be made, because Waveland's budget was in the red.

"We don't want to be spending money we don't have," Garcia explained.

According to Garcia, the state auditor supported the furloughs because the city had to take that drastic action in order to survive.

"But the end result is they feel we're going to be all right," said Garcia.

Mayor Garcia meets with the Waveland Board of Aldermen on Tuesday to discuss a tax increase of 14.155 mils. That's an additional $100 for a family with a $75,000 home.

When asked when the non-essential city employees would return to work, Garcia said, "Not until we start seeing our taxes coming in for next year."

Property owners begin paying their taxes in October.

The mayor said it was possible Waveland would have to wait until after the new year to bring back some of its staff. And he emphasized, the first furloughs to end would be in the fire and police departments because public safety must be Waveland's top priority.

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