Gulfport develops plan to survive ailing economy

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport is implementing a three-point-plan to help save money in the tough economy.

At the Mayor's suggestion, leaders in Gulfport are re-thinking how the city should operate in the struggling economy.

"When the bottom fell out of the economy, we realized we had to take additional measures," says Chief Administrative Officer Dr. John Kelly.

Dr. Kelly says the city has a three-point-plan that hopes to get the budget back on track.

That plan includes a hiring freeze, suspending future capital projects and making some changes to the city's health care plan.

"We now know that we are going to have about two million more in health care costs than we had estimated at the beginning of the year," said Dr. Kelly.

Cheryl Millender, Gulfport's Human Resource Manager, says the city has several options when it comes to reducing health care costs, but in the long run, city employees must take care of themselves.

"Long term we would somehow have to show our employees how they have to live a healthier lifestyle in order to make substantial changes and that takes time," said Millender.

Council members are also in favor of the mayor's request.

"We have discussed this in the past," said Ward Two Councilwoman Libby Milner-Roland. "We knew this time was coming since the prior fiscal year, and its time for us to step up to the plate and take care of the problem."

Ward Four Councilman Jackie Smith agrees.

"You've got to stop the bleeding somewhere," said Smith. "I would hate to see us stop on capital projects, but in this economic situation, I would agree with the mayor."

So despite re-shifting plans this fiscal year, Gulfport city leaders are confident the city will sustain the tough economy.

"There are a lot of things that drive this economy unlike other cities around. By us being more diverse, we are more optimistic, but we are also realists. And we know that we have to keep the budget contained," said Kelly.

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