Tupelo Council starts march to FY11

TUPELO – The city on Thursday launched the first of several budget talks as leaders begin piecing together Tupelo’s multimillion-dollar financial plan for FY11.
Kicking off the series of meetings was a presentation from three department heads and the executive director of the city Convention & Visitors Bureau. All must submit their budgets to the City Council for approval.
Other department heads also will stand before the seven-member council in the coming weeks. Like those who spoke today, each will summarize how their funds were spent this fiscal year and project their needs for the coming one.
None of them, however, presented finalized budget requests. That will come later.
FY11 begins Oct. 1, but the city must prepare and adopt its budget by Sept. 15.
Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis rattled off a long list of projects for his department to tackle, but said he lacks the staff and funding to complete them all.
Included on Lewis’ list are renovations to the C.C. Augustus Center, an indoor basketball facility, improvements to Gum Tree Park, more softball fields and splash pads, and a large tennis complex.
This fiscal year’s Park and Recreation budget is $3,245,540.
Fire Chief Thomas Walker said he’ll strip about $340,000 in overtime from his FY11 budget but replace that with the purchase of a new fire truck.
The overtime savings will come from restructuring the department’s three shifts and giving firefighters several unpaid days off each year.
Council members wondered how Walker’s employees would react to the change since it’d likely reduce their take-home pay. The chief said he told his staff and, while most were unhappy about it, everyone understood the city needed to save money.
“It’s going to be a more fair and honest system,” Walker told the council. “They don’t have to bank on overtime.”
This fiscal year’s Fire Department budget is $5,931,282.
Public Works, whose current budget is $7,066,072, actually saved about $400,000 this fiscal year thanks to a series of measures taken by department Director Sid Russell.
Russell said he’ll continue seeking savings without hurting the services his staff provides, such as street repair, property maintenance, mosquito prevention and traffic control.
CVB Director Neal McCoy also spoke. Although the CVB’s budget doesn’t come from the general fund, the council must approve it. The CVB earns its money from 2 percent tax on hotels, motels and restaurants. Its current budget is roughly $3,574,379.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal