"City Council Offers $7 Million in Cuts to Avoid Furlough, Tax Hikes" by Jackblog | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

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City Council Offers $7 Million in Cuts to Avoid Furlough, Tax Hikes

The Jackson City Council outlined more than $7 million in savings in order to avoid Mayor Tony Yarber's proposal to furlough city workers and raise local property taxes to fill a budget hole.

Yarber proposed a one-day-per-month furlough for full-time employees and a property tax increase of 8 percent to shore up a projected $15 million deficit.

Council President Melvin Priester Jr. presented an alternative, a 10-point plan consisting mostly of freezing job vacancies that are budgeted for but currently unfilled in addition to making other staffing cuts.

Council members say they're double-checking the numbers, and will provide final totals later. The plan, the details of which were outlined in a public meeting this afternoon at city hall, includes:

• Reducing the Jackson Zoo's requested allocation in half, from $1.2 million to $600,000

• Reducing certain reserve expenses, including $1.5 million for an expense related to the Jackson Redevelopment Authority that Priester said would not require assistance from the city.

• Freeze more than $2 million slotted for the police, fire, and public works departments.

• Cutting about $494,000 from city hall salaries, including: $200,000 from the city clerk's office, which the council oversees; $200,000 in constituent services, which the mayor's office oversees, $86,000 from the chief-administrative officer's office; and 5 percent from the salaries of city council members. (City council members earn $25,000 per year; the council president receives an extra $2,000.)

• Freeze $120,000 in unfilled positions at municipal court.

• Reducing expenditures on outside consultants by at least $115,000

• Reducing expenses on software and equipment

• Reducing travel, dues and memberships by $95,000

• Reducing expenditures on emergency contracts

• Reducing the Department of Parks and Recreation budget, including for maintenance at the city's golf courses.

In addition, the council plans to introduce plans to increase revenue, including for $20 million in outstanding water and sewer bills.

Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote has proposed using JPD to collect delinquent water bills and splitting the revenue with the department. Foote also suggested turning over management of the golf courses to the Jackson State golf program and letting an organization take over running the Russell C. Davis Planetarium.

Budget Committee Chairman and Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps said he wants the city to get into the asphalt manufacturing and water bottling businesses. He added that the city should charge the state for providing JPD security to the state fair in October. The city has unsuccessfully made the same request of the state over the years.

Yarber's office released a statement this evening: “The Administration will review the City Council’s budget recommendations and consider the proposals going forward. Council members have verbally proposed measures that will ultimately result in mass layoffs, which the Administration had hoped to avoid. I am deeply concerned about the impact on public safety, mainly because council members have proposed significant reductions in the Police Department and the Fire Department. The council has also proposed drastic cuts to the Department of Public Works and this comes at a time when the department has begun making progress on street resurfacing and other road issues.”

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