Gulfport Mayor Vetoes Budget - - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport Mayor Vetoes Budget

Mayor Brent Warr said "no" to the Gulfport city council on Tuesday by vetoing a budget it passed last week. His reason? It didn't include pay raises that he believes are desperately needed to attract and retain quality city employees.

With the old budget thrown out, city leaders had to work fast to find a compromise. Cities must have a budget by September 30th or face the threat of a government shut down.

"The administration cannot in good conscious accept a budget that will be a disservice to its citizens," Mayor Warr said while standing on the steps of City Hall.

While surrounded by some of city employees he says deserve higher pay, Mayor Brent Warr proclaimed the new Gulfport budget as unacceptable. He carried that message from the steps of City Hall into the council chambers.

"It's never fun to have anything that we say or do found to be unacceptable," he told council members. "This is part of government and there are times we have to engage in reasonable and heated debate."

A motion early on to uphold Mayor Warr's veto died for lack of a second. Council members questioned the fairness of giving 84 employees large pay increases, but only a three percent raise to hundreds of others. They were also concerned about the timing.

"When we look at people getting $10,000 or $11,000 raises, I just can't look our citizens in the face and say with all the things we need in the city of Gulfport to do that," said Ward 4's Jackie Smith.

Then came the offering of an olive branch. Council member Jackie Smith suggested a $5,000 cap on salary increases, along with a study to look at the duties and responsibilities of all city positions to determine if a pay hike was justified.

"If what you're offering is that compromise, I will sit down and in the spirit of cooperation, yield to your next move," responded the Mayor.

After hours of debate, a five to two vote signified that the mayor and the council had managed to find middle ground.

"I'm very very happy," said Mayor Warr. "We didn't get everything that we wanted, but the council really worked hard and they came up with some good points I appreciate them making. They came in my direction and I came theirs and we came up with a good understanding. I appreciate it."

Council members Barbara Nalley and Ella Holmes-Hines were the dissenting votes. Gulfport plans to spend in the neighborhood of $30,000 in a study to evaluate its employees. The council did not make changes in the budget to any capital projects.  

by Danielle Thomas

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