Melton Pulls $3 Million From City's Reserves | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Melton Pulls $3 Million From City's Reserves

The administration of Jackson Mayor Frank Melton got its wish from the council in a 3-to-2 vote in favor of raiding $3 million from the city's $7 million budget reserve fund to fix a lingering hole in the 2007 budget. "I don't like the idea of taking money out of the fund, but I don't see any other way to deal with (the shortfall)," Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes said.

The council had authorized a $5.3 million short-term debt re-financing plan and cut some city positions to counter a roughly $4 million shortfall in the incoming 2008 budget, before the Sept. 15 deadline—but then had to deal with a remaining $3 million shortfall leftover from the 2007 budget. With three days before the Sept. 30 deadline, the council had few options beyond the reserve raid.

Ward 6 Councilman Marshand Crisler and Ward 2 Councilman Leslie McLemore were attending an out-of-town National League of Cities conference, leaving only Ward 1 Councilman Jeff Weill and Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon to oppose the raid with Stokes, Ward 4 Councilman Frank Bluntson and Ward 5's Charles Tillman voting for it.

Weill argued that raiding the reserve would hurt the city's interest rates on future bond projects, and negatively affect the city's standing with financing agencies.

"I still oppose dipping into the reserve fund," Weill said. "I just don't think that's sound business practice."

Stokes said the council would not have been faced with tapping the reserves had it voted in favor of an $8 million long-term debt refinancing plan in August, rather than the $5.3 million short-term financing plan the council approved days ago.

"Now we're at the last minute, and we don't have any other choice," Stokes said.

Director of Administration Rick Hill told the council that the city "would have realized about $1.9 million out of that restructuring for this year had we moved forward with (the long-term financing)," though Hill's number would have still fallen at least $1 million short of the figure needed to fill the 2007 budget hole.

Council members voted against the long-term debt refinancing plan last month because the administration could not present hard numbers on how hard an impact the plan would have on the city's bond rating.

Weill said last month that he voted down the plan under the assumption that the administration was capable of presenting options other than simply tapping the reserve. Weill said he would have preferred the administration present more downsizing possibilities. He maintained that attitude minutes before the vote.

"Folks need to know that Jackson is a lot smaller a town than it was 10 years ago, and we cannot continue to fund through ad valorem taxes what we used to do," Weill said, adding that he hoped the city would continue to look for ways to cut unnecessary staff.

"I will hold you to your promise to look into outsourcing services and payroll reduction where necessary. … There are some positions that are not necessary, and I encourage the administration to have the political courage to carry that out if necessary—and I stress 'if necessary.' You know who those folks are … ."

Crisler said earlier this week that he opposed the reserve tap, and drew the ire of Melton, who looked incapable of producing a balanced budget on time.

Tension was obvious Wednesday when Crisler corrected the mayor for incorrectly identifying a special council meeting that day as a budget meeting. Melton, who was talking to the reporter, replied to Crisler, "I'm not talking to you …goddamned … idiot," according to the Clarion-Ledger.

Melton argues that shortfalls have always been issues with previous mayors, though council veterans say previous administrations acted in better time for council input on dealing with them. The last administration presented budget plans to the council in July or August—with attached options for potential "tweaking." Melton's administration, comparatively, submitted the final 2008 budget within days of the Sept. 15 deadline.

Former Mayor Harvey Johnson, Jr., said the $3 million reserve raid would require another revision regarding the '08 budget.

"Now they'll have to go back and do an amendment of the '08 budget to reflect the decrease in the fund balance," Johnson said. "They need to get a plan in place to replace that money, or the rating agencies will not like it."

Hill said he hoped the city would be able to quickly recapture the expenditure, citing a $10,000 increase in municipal court revenue as example. He added, though, that the '08 budget was extremely tight and warned that replenishing the fund would likely be slow.

Previous Comments

ID
129507
Comment

I moved this comment I made to this thread: Isn't the city "self insured"? That is, the city of Jackson pays its own lawsuits out of that fund. So, another year of little frankie and there won't be any of that reserve left. All this while he brings lawsuits against the city with his erratic behavior. He wouldn't be allowed to continue in the private sector.

Author
Cliff Cargill
Date
2007-09-28T10:46:17-06:00
ID
129508
Comment

I tell my children, "don't lecture me on what other kids did or are doing", my only concern is you. As usual, everytime he gets in trouble, Melton wants to point the finger at Harvey Johnson's administration. Frank you claimed you could do more in 8 minutes than Johnson did in 8 years. Well you were right - you have managed to almost destroy this city, financially, physically and spiritually.

Author
lanier77
Date
2007-09-28T11:31:30-06:00
ID
129509
Comment

Isn't it interesting that Johnson is so willing to make comments and vicariously give directions to this mayor. Instead of taking notes and getting in gear for the nest storm, he is busy calling a Council Person a God Da$% Idiot. My Lord, what was Jackson thinking?

Author
justjess
Date
2007-09-28T12:08:12-06:00
ID
129510
Comment

This mayor will never state responsibility for his lack of leadship and understanding. Now its Havey's fault, the crime problem was Faye's problem. He is just incompentent along with his followers. Jackson is sinking and will sink even farther as he placed his lap dogs into these positions. And as we can see the citizens of Jackson just don;t have a clue. This is exactly what this city deserves, down the toliet with leadship that don;t have a brain. To late to wake up this is only the beginning. My hat goes off to those who stand up for the people and not just because Frank open his mouth saying nothing. I can't wait until it is time to re-elect Blunton, Tillman and Stokes....they needs to be voted out, they do not represents the citizens only Frank. Just wait we are going to see the same behavor from the new DA, another lap dog. This city sucks with so many idiots. I know other citys with the same leadership that are professional see this as a bigger than bigger joke.

Author
BJM
Date
2007-09-28T20:37:10-06:00
ID
129511
Comment

OOPs correction TAKE

Author
BJM
Date
2007-09-28T20:38:53-06:00
ID
129512
Comment

If Melton wouldn't have cancelled the contract the city had with the D.C. marketing firm, the city would have MORE than enough to cover the three million dollar deficit. The DC firm was bringing the city 10 million dollars a year, but for some unknown reason, Melton stupidly cancelled the contract after he took office.

Author
Joerob
Date
2007-09-29T20:00:09-06:00
ID
129513
Comment

Joerob, in the words of Forest Gump, "Stupid is - Stupid does."

Author
justjess
Date
2007-10-01T08:36:22-06:00

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