Because of revenue increase projections, the administration did not put a tax increase in the budget. But it did add a raise to employee paychecks. And that possibility didn't exist a year ago because the city was still watching its costs.
The man who's name is on Gulfport's budget proposal is Ken Combs. The 75 year old is finishing up his 12th and final year as Gulfport's mayor.
"Mr. President, members of the city council, citizens of Gulfport," he said as he addressed a regular meeting of the city council. Prior to that meeting, Combs talked about his last term. "Overall, it's been a good four years," he said, despite the fact that he suffered a stroke exactly one year ago that nearly forced him to resign. Thanks to rehabilitation, the mayor has been in the office up to six hours a day, building the final budget of his administration. "I'm frankly glad to see it over with," he said, referring to both the budget discussions and the last phase of his term.
Combs is proud of what his budget recommendation has in it. "The best part is it's balanced," he said. The mayor is just as proud of what it doesn't contain. "There is no tax increase," he said with a smile.
The mayor believes future city budgets will remain that way as long as Gulfport focuses on two keys -- more water and sewer improvements and more sales tax growth. Cashing in on sales tax opportunities will be Combs' top priority during his final 10 months in office. "I've still got a year to go to try to bring new growth into the I-10 49 commercial corridor of Gulfport," he said.
When Combs leaves his desk at city hall next July, he's going fishing somewhere on a Gulfport bayou. He wants to simply sit back and enjoy the city as a citizen rather than as its mayor.
Gulfport council members have until September 15th to make any changes to Mayor Combs' final budget.