Waveland's city budget now in the black

WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - There was more talk about budget problems at a special meeting of the Waveland Board of Aldermen Tuesday. Last Friday, the city imposed a third round of layoffs since the new mayor and board took office in December.

Despite the city's financial problems, the meeting began with some encouraging news.

"What we have done is adjusted the budget to where now we're actually in the black," said Waveland Mayor David Garcia.

However, the mayor said that didn't happen until he reduced the city's work force from 64 full-time workers to now less than 20.

Waveland resident Santoe Saucier asked the mayor if those who are out of work can draw unemployment.

"Not on a furlough," Garcia responded.

"And y'all are asking these guys to stay out a whole month?" Saucier asked.

"It's illegal in the state of Mississippi to spend money that you don't have that this board is responsible for. That's why they are furloughed," Garcia said. "It's not they we want to do it. Don't think I enjoy doing it. I'm getting beat up on Facebook, the media. I'll say it just like this: I've got a heart and I go home and I've got to lay my head down. Y'all don't know how it's eating my guts and my insides out."

The mayor told the crowd he hoped to start bringing some employees back to work after October first.

"If the budget allows for, we will begin bringing employees back at that time. However, if the revenues does not, we will not be able to do that."

The mayor also said the city is proposing a one percent sales tax on tourism related businesses, hotels and restaurants as a way to generate money for the city.

"If that's approved, what would happen is it would come back to Waveland as a referendum. It would be placed on the ballot for y'all to decide if you want to add a one percent sales tax on tourism."

He said the idea is to raise money through a tourism sales tax to off-set the property tax increase the city hopes to pass.

"It seems like we're going to be paying more taxes from the city, the county, the state, and our federal government," said Waveland resident Danny Ray.

City leaders announced that Waveland's Municipal Pier, closed due to budget constraints, will reopen. Volunteers will take the place of the pier rangers, who normally man the pier. Furloughed employees, as well as many Waveland residents have stepped up to volunteer their services all over the city.

"I just want to thank all of you for that support. At this point, we need all the help we can get and we appreciate that," said City Attorney Gary Yarborough.

The board also announced it terminated the contract of comptroller Tom Worrell. Patty Hammons has been hired to replace him. She has previously worked with the state auditor's office.

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