Pascagoula city leaders cutting the budget, suggest making changes to employee benefits
PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Pascagoula city leaders are discussing many different ways to curb spending, like increasing the cost of benefits for city employees, minimizing utility contracts, and closing city parks.
At a budget meeting Tuesday, officials met to talk over ways to save money after last week's announcement of a $14 million deficit stemming from the 2012 to 2017 fiscal years.
"We're doing everything we can to be sure we're cutting all the spending," said Mayor Dane Maxwell. "We discovered it. We checked it. We paid for a forensic audit to make sure that it was what we suspected. It was."
City council members have approved several ways to save money, like consolidating utility contracts into one. That will save roughly $500,000 a year. Removing bond proceeds from the general fund will also save some.
City employees can also expect to see big changes in September. That's when council members will decide whether to increase health insurance premiums by $50 a month per employee. Right now, the city has a lower employee contribution compared to the city's contribution. The $50 increase would be flat across the board, making it the same amount for a single employee versus an employee who has a spouse with children.
It's a move officials say would save the city $132,000 per year. Increasing prescription co-pays from $5 to $10 is also an option. This would save $24,000 annually.
City leaders in September will also decide on cutting the education compensation and tuition reimbursement program for employees. One of the suggestions made at the meeting is to amend the current handbook to pause those programs beginning in 2019. Those employees who currently take advantage of those programs would be grandfathered in. Licenses and certifications directly related to a city employee's job would still be included.
Council members also voted to hire a law firm out of Jackson, Butler Snow, to provide legal advice and guidance directly related to the audit. They also approved borrowing $4,479,000 from First Bank to help cover costs. This will be a 32-month note at 4.75 percent interest. The city will have access to those funds by the end of the week.
Earlier on Tuesday, city officials met with the district attorney and the FBI, who are in town to investigate the forensic audit the city recently conducted.
"The FBI is going to look and see if there's any concern that they have it in. At this point my job is to just let them have it," said the mayor.
The city will continue budget meetings until they can come up with a way to fight this deficit. The next one is scheduled for August 7 and is open to the public. The meetings are also live-streamed on the city's Facebook page.
You can watch the entire budget meeting from Tuesday, July 31 below:
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