Tupelo Departments budget needs and not wants

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Three more department heads presented their missions and projects for the upcoming fiscal year as Tupelo prepares its FY11 budget.
Tuesday marked the third day of department-by-department budget talks at City Hall. Police Chief Tony Carleton, City Court Administrator Larry Montgomery and Tupelo Water & Light Manager Johnny Timmons each spoke.
Their presentations will help the City Council set spending priorities when it receives each department’s budget requests later this month. Tupelo’s current fiscal-year general fund budget is roughly $35.6 million, and Chief Financial Officer Lynn Norris said it likely will remain flat in FY11.
Norris said he told department heads to cut fat from their budgets and request only what they need – not what they might want.
Carleton said his department already has taken measures to save money by, for example, certifying its own K-9 trainer and finding volunteer pilots to fly its helicopter for free.
But he said his department needs software to conduct digital weapons training without having to buy ammunition. He also wants his own animal control officer.
The police department’s current budget is about $10 million.
Montgomery praised his court staff and the department’s work program. The work program allows people to pay off their fines by performing free labor for the city. He said it saves the municipality tens of thousands of dollars annually by reducing labor expenses.
His current budget is $812,925.
The Tupelo Water & Light Department’s $72.2 million budget doesn’t come from the city’s general or operating fund. Instead, it generates its revenues from utility fees charged to customers.
But the city does provide funding to certain projects performed by TW&L. For instance, it allocated $50,000 this year to replace traffic signal bulbs with LED lights.
That project is about 75 percent complete. Timmons said he hopes to finish it this year with an additional city allocation.

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