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Natchez aldermen finalize new tax-and-spend plan for city
from Staff Reports - NEWS
September 13, 2017 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – City leaders on Friday will present the public their proposed budget for the coming year that includes a property tax increase to fund pay raises for Natchez police officers and firemen.

The Board of Aldermen agreed Tuesday to increase city policemen and firefighters’ wages by 7 percent, costing about $660,000 extra in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Aldermen are planning to increase property taxes by about $470,000 to help pay for the higher salaries.

Low pay is making it difficult to recruit and retain people to man the city police and fire departments, according to city officials. For example, the starting pay for a Natchez fireman is $24,400 a year, according to Fire Chief Aaron Wesley.

The board is preparing a four-mill tax increase that would, for example, make a taxpayer with a house valued at $100,000 pay about $40 more a year in taxes.

Natchez propertyowners haven’t had an across-the-board increase in city taxes since 2005. Police and firemen’s pay was last increased in 2012 by 5 percent. The Natchez Police Department has about 43 employees. The Natchez Fie Department has about 46.

To save money, Mayor Darryl Grennell and aldermen are discussing the possibility of closing the city jail if they can get the Adams County Board of Supervisors to allow city jail detainees to be housed at the county jail.

The city board is preparing a budget for the coming year that totals about $36 million, of which about $15 million is for the general fund. The rest is specially earmarked funds.

In addition to the $470,000 in extra revenues from the property tax increase to balance the budget, the board also plans to use about $900,000 from revenues it gets for leasing city-owned land to Magnolia Bluffs Casino. The casino money in recent past years has been used to repave city streets and plug up cash shortfalls that occur during the fiscal year after it begins. The board is now having to use that money at the start of the year to avert a budget deficit.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen will hold a public hearing Friday to present its tax-and-spend plan. Natchez residents will be allowed to speak at the meeting to ask questions and challenge the budget before the board adopts it. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. in the City Council Chambers on Pearl Street across from City Hall. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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