Biloxi Cuts Millions From Its Budget

The costs of Hurricane Katrina are adding up. Tuesday, the Biloxi City Council slashed millions from its budget.

Groups like the Salvation Army, Mental Health Association and agencies like the Harrison County Library System share the $4.9 million the Biloxi City Council budgets for them. With finances so uncertain, those groups, with the exception of a few, now have a zero balance from the city.

Nearly 100 events like Mardi Gras, Smokin the Sound, Cruisin the Coast, youth groups like the Boys & Girls Club, and various other charities get part of their funding from the City of Biloxi. But as Council President Mike Fitzpatrick says, Hurricane Katrina created lean tax revenues and hard times are ahead.

"Of course the gaming revenues are down, but we do have the $10 million insurance fund to help us out and there's a lot of other things in our budget. I looked at it one time and we're probably short somewhere 10 to 20 million dollars in our overall budget, so it is going to be hard times."

So Fitzpatrick encouraged the council to slash most of the contributions to zero until January when they have a clearer picture of how much money is coming in.

"And if we are funded, we can go back and help these agencies out. And some of them may need more, some of them may need less at that time."

The Harrison Library System is one of the agencies taking a big hit. Biloxi gave the library $715,000 this year. Now the council whittled that down to $200,000 that the library must stretch through January.

"In some ways we're somewhat appreciative that the City of Biloxi is letting us know where we stand because we can work with real figures. It's a little hard to work with 'don't spend any money.' Obviously, we have to pay utility bills like everyone else and we have to pay salaries," librarian Charlene Longino said.

Of the $4.9 million the city gives to the various groups, the council left about $2.5 million intact for such things as airport and coast transit funding, as well as liability insurance.