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Budget vote possible after aldermen hold hearing at City Hall

August 15, 2011

By CARL SMITH
sdnnews@bellsouth.net

The Starkville Board of Aldermen will hold its second public hearing on a draft of the city’s 2012 fiscal budget at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
The board will consider adopting the city’s budget after the hearing. The city’s deadline to adopt a formal budget is Sept. 15.
In the board’s previous regular meeting on Aug. 2, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk presented the first draft of the city’s budget. While 2011’s budget called for a .45 mill increase to property taxes and held spending flat compared to the previous year’s budget, the proposed 2012 budget contains no property tax increases in order to alleviate a potential raise from a September bond issue election for construction of a new police station. While spending in certain areas would decrease, other spending for health insurance increases, studies for the South Montgomery Street Project, city cemetery maintenance and pay increases to retain city workers would be funded through organic growth of Starkville’s economy.
“Comments (about the budget) were fairly limited and were mainly about how we wish we could fund some things at a higher level than we are. With a lean budget, we do what we can,” Sistrunk said. “The budget is a plan, but it’s not a static document. We typically amend it three or more times over the course of a year as we get into the (fiscal) year and see where are revenues are developing or where expenses could be dropping.”
Sistrunk said most of the comments she has received included desires for funding more capital improvement projects and increasing the city library’s funding.
In other board business, Starkville Public Services Director Doug Devlin said last week he would approach the board to ask for extra manpower and equipment to help city workers continue to flush pipes of brown water.
Reports of water discoloration have reached City Hall and various aldermen after city workers raised the level of chlorine in the water supply. The increased chlorine levels were necessary for the city to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2006 Safe Drinking Water Act. Increased chlorine levels can cause further oxidation of existing iron deposits. Changes in water flow can cause portions of these deposits to break loose and discolor the water.
While discolored, officials say the water is safe to dirnk.
Devlin said the city has used unidirectional flushing to rid areas of the brown water and extra manpower and equipment would allow workers to take more of a systematic approach with its efforts instead of being reactionary.
The board will hear a request of a budget neutral reorganization to the water department which will add an additional service request response crew and aldermen could also approve advertising to fill a line foreman and maintenance worker positions. Also, the board could approve the purchase of an additional truck and mini-excavator at a combined cost of over $40,000.
Aldermen could also discuss the possibility of developing an early warning akin to boil water notices for Starkville residents about changes in the color of water.
Last week, Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey said he would discuss the topic with aldermen.
Two presentations about funding from the 2 percent food and beverage tax will also be made to the board.
Bill Kibler, vice president for student affairs, and Mississippi State University Student Association President Rhett Hobart will present the proposed 2012 SA budget for the expenditure of funds generated from the 2 percent food and beverage tax.
According to the proposal attached to the city agenda’s e-packet, MSU officials project a revenue of $280,000 and will use a $10,000 surplus from the previous year. Three MSU functions have proposed budgets over $50,000 — Music Maker Productions ($95,000), Bulldog Bash ($75,000) and the Night Route ($65,000) — while $20,000 could be set aside for the Old Main Music Festival. The budget proposal also lists $35,000 reserved for the Lyceum Series.
Also, Jennifer Gregory will present the Starkville Visitor’s and Convention Council’s 2012 budget proposal. The budget anticipates $210,000 in 2 percent-tax revenue and would fund Greater Starkville Development Partnership marketing/operating contracts and advertising at a combined $143,500. The remaining money would be used to fund audits, dues, CVB Board development, sponsored and sustaining grant programs, professional development and cellular phone usage.

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