Tupelo sets final FY11 budget

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The city will adopt a $32.7 million general fund budget on Tuesday that calls for no employee raises but no layoffs, either.
The hefty document caps weeks of meetings, negotiations and number-crunching among municipal department heads and elected officials. It was presented Wednesday during a two-hour City Council work session.
Council members asked numerous questions about the budget, which will go into effect Oct. 1, but eventually agreed to adopt it at a special called meeting set for next week.
“This is a great budget,” said council President Fred Pitts. “We ought to be on our knees praying and being thankful” that Tupelo hasn’t had to cut salaries, staff or services like other cities have.
Next year’s general fund budget projects roughly $628,000 more in revenues and expenditures than in the current budget, which was set at just less than $32.1 million.
It also anticipates the city will dip into its rainy day fund by $1.5 million – about half of what was anticipated for the current fiscal year.
“We’re being very conservative,” said Chief Financial Officer Lynn Norris. “We’re projecting less revenues than we actually received this year.”
But some council members had their complaints: Markel Whittington of Ward 1 called the city’s employee benefits package too “rich” and suggested reducing perks to save money.
Mike Bryan of Ward 6 said the city needs to implement a strict hiring freeze and not replace any outgoing employees. He was rebuffed by Ward 7’s Willie Jennings, who said Tupelo can’t punish remaining employees with the extra workload of their former colleagues. He added that morale was low.
Said Mayor Jack Reed Jr.: “As far as city morale and our work force morale, in my morning prayers I pray for the city employees. It hurts me to not propose a raise two years in a row, but they’ve got jobs and it’s hard to get a job right now. We’re one of the few cities in Mississippi, if not the only one, to not have layoffs.”

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