Gulfport begins working on 2015 budget

Gulfport city council meeting on the 2015 budget. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Gulfport city council meeting on the 2015 budget. (Photo source: WLOX News)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport city council met Tuesday to begin discussing their 2015 budget. The council was able to hear from all department heads, but council members raised several questions about the police department.

Gulfport Chief of Police Leonard Papania says within the next month, he will be down 15 employees. Currently the police department has four vacancies and 11 people who will be leaving soon.

"You've got 11 people exiting within how many days?" asked Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines.

Hines called it, "ridiculous" and said the department needed to look into ways to retain officers.

According to Chief Papania, his staff members who are leaving are either joining other departments or taking federal and state level jobs. He says some are leaving for jobs in nearby cities, possibly because, of a pay raise.

"With the inflation rate, it's gone up substantially, and we've not been able to bring up our employees raises, even with the cost of living," said Chief Papania.

For the first time since 2009, Gulfport is not asking each department to do more with less. City leaders are happy to say they are finally working with a balanced budget. While that is a big accomplishment, city employees won't be receiving raises again for the 8th year in a row.

"We have turn over in all departments. The police department is no different than any of the other departments," said Council President Rusty Walker.

Still, Walker says he wishes he could give every employee a cost of living adjustment. As for the police department losing 11 employees, Councilman Walker says resignations are common.

"We have resignations across the city every day. When you have over 650 to 700 employees we have resignations and turnover is very expected," said Walker.

"The city is finally getting in a financial condition to where there were no cuts, and I'm hopeful that as we progress through the year, if the year looks more prosperous, then we can revisit opportunities to take care of our employees," said Chief Papania.

Chief Papania says although they will be losing 11 employees by the end of the month, the department will not be functioning at a critical level.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.