Biloxi Budget Proposal Lacks Employee Raises - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

08/22/05

Biloxi Budget Proposal Lacks Employee Raises

As a Biloxi Parks and Recreation employee took apart a soccer net and moved it to another field, he was asked if he wanted a pay raise.

"Yes. I mean who wouldn't," he said with a smile.

Yet the framework for Biloxi's next budget lacks a salary increase for the city's 750 employees.

"That wouldn't be too good," another parks and recreation worker said.

However, his partner said, "whatever we get, we're happy with. We've got to accept it."

The Holloway administration sent council members a budget without employee pay raises attached to it.

"A budget is just a guide that you go by. And you have to start some place," the mayor said.

Ward four councilman Mike Fitzpatrick used that guide as a launching pad.

"I say to the mayor, take a look at the budget that I prepared," he said.

Fitzpatrick used his accounting background -- and eight previous Biloxi budgets he approved -- to reconfigure the administration's proposal. What he came up with was quite different than what the mayor submitted.

Will Biloxi residents face a tax increase proposed by the adminstration?

"No." said Fitzpatrick.

Will Biloxi employees get a pay raise?

"Yes they will," the councilman said.

And based on Fitzpatrick's calculations, Biloxi would still have $6.8 million available to spend on new capital improvement projects.

At city hall, the mayor hoped Fitzpatrick was right. But A.J. Holloway was leery about whether Biloxi could keep counting on casino revenues and sales tax collections to pay for its lengthy to do list.

"I just don't believe in messing with the revenue stream," he said, noting that just last month, Biloxi casino revenues fell by $10 million after Hurricane Dennis shut down the industry for almost two days.

The mayor does believe in compromise. And since in the end, the budget is the council's budget, he's confident the council will find a way to make employees happy.

"Well, I think they're going to get a pay raise," he said.

The Biloxi budget is still a work in progress. The council has until September 15 to adopt next year's financial blueprint.

by Brad Kessie

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