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Natchez board approves tax increase for police, fire pay raises
from Staff Reports - NEWS
September 17, 2017 -

By John Mott Coffey
NATCHEZ, Miss. – Before a crowd of appreciative Natchez firemen Friday, aldermen approved a $36 million budget for running the city in the coming year that includes pay raises for the fire and police departments funded by a tax increase on Natchez propertyowners.

The tax increase on homes, automobiles, businesses and other properties will annually generate about $470,000, according to city accountant Wallace Collins. The four-mill increase would, for example, make a taxpayer with a house valued at $100,000 pay about $40 more next year in taxes.

Natchez propertyowners haven’t had an across-the-board increase in city taxes since 2005.

The higher tax revenues will be earmarked to help give the city’s nearly 90 police officers and firefighters a 7 percent pay raise. Their wages must be increased to ensure Natchez can recruit and retain more “professional” people to fight crime and fires, said Alderman Dan Dillard.

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.

After the city board’s 4-0 vote Friday approving the budget, Natchez Fire Chief Aaron Wesley and a battalion of firefighters gave Mayor Darryl Grennell and the aldermen a plaque of appreciation for the salary increases. Three fire trucks were parked outside the City Council Chambers in a show of force as the board met.

As the city prepares for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, the mayor and aldermen held a public hearing Friday to present the budget. It calls for spending a total of $36 million -- $3 million more than what was allocated for the budget year ending this month.

Of the $36 million to be spent in the next 12 months, $15 million is for the general fund, which pays for the city’s day-to-day operations. That’s $900,000 more than what was budgeted for the past 12 months.

Much of the additional spending is due to the $660,000 it cost for the fire and police departments’ pay raises. There are no across-the-board pay raises for other city employees.

In presenting the budget plan Friday, Collins referred to the city’s past financial problems, which include error-prone bookkeeping and cash shortfalls that the Madison-based CPA has been contracted to help resolve.

He noted City Hall wound up last fiscal year with a $885,000 budget deficit – a revelation that indicates the financial troubles were worse than earlier thought. Collins said the Board of Aldermen will likely have to borrow money in the next few weeks to pay employees and other expenses, but he projected this fiscal year and the next will end with positive cash balances in the $100,000 range.

The Board of Aldermen is budgeting to spend $900,000 from revenues it gets from leasing city-owned land to Magnolia Bluffs Casino. The casino money in past years has been used to repave city streets and plug up cash shortfalls that occur during the fiscal year after it begins. However, the special fund has now become a general revenue source. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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