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Natchez aldermen prepare to increase taxes for police, fire pay raises
from Staff Reports - NEWS
September 8, 2017 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. — City aldermen are planning a property tax increase to fund pay raises for the police and fire departments as Natchez grapples with a large revenue shortfall and budget deficit that’s tormented the city in recent years.

“The city is broke and it was broke,” said Wallace Collins, an accountant hired by the mayor and Board of Aldermen to help the city dig out of its fiscal hole. He said they’re facing a deficit projected at about $600,000 in the coming year.

Low pay is making it difficult for Natchez to recruit and retain police officers and firemen, according to city officials as they prepare the budget for the fiscal year that starts in October.

With public safety a top priority, Mayor Darryl Grennell said Thursday he expects aldermen to adopt his recommendation to increase property taxes with the additional revenues being steered to pay raises for the Natchez police and fire departments.

“But I want to make sure that’s where the money is going,” said Alderman Dan Dillard. “It’s got to be earmarked (for fire and police salaries).”

An official vote won’t be taken by the board until later this month on whether to increase taxes, but the mayor and aldermen are discussing a property tax increase totaling at most four mills -- about $470,000 in the coming year.

Natchez property owners haven’t had an across-the-board increase in city taxes since 2006, Collins said. Police and firemen’s pay was last increased in 2012 by 5 percent. That’s the amount aldermen discussed on Thursday.

Grennell and the six aldermen held a public hearing Thursday to discuss the budget being prepared. They’re planning to meet again next Tuesday before adopting a tax increase and budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

Collins noted the city’s general-fund budget for next year is a work in progress that totals nearly $15 million with proposed spending exceeding projected revenues by about $600,000. The aldermen and mayor are struggling to reduce that deficit and balance the budget.

“We’re in a tight crunch,” Grennell said.

“We knew it was dire but just didn’t know how dark it was,” said Dillard. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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