Mayor says Gulfport must eliminate 40 positions

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Schloegel administration presented Gulfport council members a budget proposal for 2012-13.  In that recommendation is a plan to slash 40 jobs.  However, WLOX News has learned most of those positions are vacant jobs that won't be filled.

The cuts are necessary because Gulfport Chief Financial Officer Mike Necaise says, "The upcoming fiscal year presents numerous challenges."

Gulfport leaders heard two weeks ago that city finances could be off by as much as four million dollars.  A news release from the city's public information officers says eliminating 40 city jobs would save about half that money.

Since George Schloegel became Gulfport's mayor in 2009, a city that once had more than 700 employees now has just more than 600.  That's a 16% reduction in city workers.  And it doesn't count the 40 positions that could be chopped in the 2013 budget.

The budget proposal is banking on a $600,000 ground lease payment from a casino adjacent to Jones Park.  That casino project has been rejected by the Mississippi Gaming Commission not once, but twice.  Because it is being reworked, and will be presented a third time to gaming regulators, Gulfport leaders are counting on that project.  "We're extremely hopeful that's going to happen," Gulfport spokesman Ryan LaFontaine said.

The Schloegel budget is a balanced budget.  And despite the stagnation of the economy, administration representatives "are confident the city will meet those challenges head-on."

Gulfport City Council members received the budget proposal just as Tuesday's meeting was ending.  So, they tell us they haven't had time to review the recommendation.

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