Public Works wants slight increase

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – City leaders heard the first of several municipal budget requests Monday during a work session on Tupelo’s fiscal year 2012 budget.
The Public Works Department, which has one of the city’s largest staffs, asked for a 2.9 percent increase in its annual allocation.
It currently gets $5,430,446 a year.
“We’re doing what we can to cut expenses,” said Public Works Director Sid Russell, explaining that the increase will cover the rising costs of health care, retirement benefits and fuel.
Other municipal departments also will make budget presentations to the City Council, which has scheduled a series of work sessions during the coming weeks.
A new budget must be adopted by Sept. 15. It goes into effect Oct. 1.
Although they offered several cost-saving suggestions, council members generally praised Russell’s efforts to rein in spending during the current year. He did this in part by reducing the department’s staff size and switching to a four-day work week.
Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington asked if utility costs could be reduced, and council President Fred Pitts wanted to see a centralized purchasing system to save money.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said those areas already are under consideration. And Russell said he’s exploring further cost savings through outsourcing some street sweeping duties.
But outsourcing the entire department – as had been suggested in the previous city administration – won’t happen.
“Tupelo needs its own Public Works Department,” Reed said. “I don’t want to have to contact St. Louis at 1 a.m. during an ice storm saying I need all hands on deck.”
The Public Works Department handles street and drainage maintenance, brush cleanup, mosquito control, tree planting and traffic control.