By ADAM ARMOUR
Although the cost of living seems to increase on a daily basis, the city of Fulton will not see a tax raise this fiscal year.
At a budget meeting held by the board of aldermen and Mayor Paul Walker last week, the dreaded topic of taxes was raised, but taxes themselves were not. Although the very mention of a tax hike brings a cringe to each alderman’s face, they say the increasing cost of gasoline, natural gas and electricity may make a future tax increase inevitable.
The board and mayor are fighting the need for a tax increase with both fists. The board agreed unanimously that rising expenses are hitting citizens hard, and none of them are eager to add to any citizen’s financial load. The city of Fulton has not seen a tax change in 17 years, a tradition the board is not willing to break easily.
Although the board is keeping a close eye on the proposed budget for the 2006 fiscal year, most departments will be receiving an increased budget due to the overall increase in expenses.
According to City Clerk Lisa Russell, the cost of everything is up, forcing the budget to allot for the increases.
“Well, it’s up,” Russell said of the proposed budget, “with gasoline prices going up, power bills going up and health insurance and workman’s comp insurance going up. Those have been the three main reasons things are going up in cost.”
The proposed budget for the 2006 fiscal year includes a three percent raise to salaries of city employees. The board fought hard to keep this increase in the budget, stating that their employees work hard and deserve the raise. The total operating cost in the proposed budget is $2,402,950, up $178,700 from last year.
The general fund will see an increase of $16,100, setting it at $409,200. The general fund includes all city hall expenses and will include a new, more gas-conservative vehicle for the mayor. According to the board, the new vehicle is a must with the amount of traveling the mayor undertakes, and a more fuel efficient car will help the city save money on gas costs.
The police department will see an increase of $20,200, bringing their budget to $663,600. The costs will include a new police vehicle that, like the mayor’s, will be more fuel efficient.
The proposed budget for the fire department is $49,400, up $5,100 from last year. The budget includes an increase to equipment and assets spending.
The street department is set to see an increase to $863,750, up $10,200 from last year. Expenses for the department include $45,000 to be used toward the purchase of a new backhoe.
The animal control department will see a small increase of $250, raising their budget to $2,100 to be used on regular operating expenses.
The Itawamba County Pratt Memorial Library is one of the few departments proposed not to receive a budget increase, maintaining a budget of $32,000. The library has received a budget increase each year over the past several years.
The water department is set to receive a $15,500 increase to their budget, bringing it to $1,173,600. The increase includes the cost of a new generator for the department.
The gas department will be operating off of a proposed budget of $1,849,091, down $24,021 from last year. Included in the budget are the costs of a new welding machine and small trencher for use on private lawns.
The sewer department is set to receive a $10,440 increase to its budget, bringing the proposed total to $424,700. Included in their spending is $28,000 to be used to purchase new aerators for the lagoon.
Finally the proposed budget includes a $16,500 increase for the garbage department, bringing their budget to $309,200.
“I think we’re pretty well prepared,” Russell said.