City preps for new fiscal year

By: 
Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

The Board of Aldermen prepared for a new fiscal year on Monday, addressing how the city plans to save money, as well as how it plans to prioritize spending.

Before Monday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk presented Starkville’s proposed budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which will begin on Sept. 30, at a special call work session.

Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’. Perkins was not present for the work session meeting.

Starkville’s employees were a large focus of the discussion for the coming fiscal year.

“When we first started building the budget, the first thing we wanted to do was make sure that we take care of our employees,” Sistrunk said. “They’re our greatest expense and our greatest resource.”

The most notable potential change for the coming fiscal year is a change in the city’s health insurance plan for its employees.

“One of the drivers was to make sure we had a health insurance plan that continues to be affordable to the city and provide a quality product for our employees with as little disruption to their coverage as possible,” Sistrunk said. “We wanted to be able to provide a quality, sustainable healthcare product for our employees.”

However, the current plan is not sustainable.

With the current plan, the health insurance cost would increase by about 11 percent from the current year to this coming fiscal year, which, according to Sistrunk, is more than the city could manage financially.

Based on the board’s discussion with the city’s insurance consultant, McGriffin Insurance, Sistrunk proposed the board adopt the dual option plan for health insurance.

The dual option plan would have a base plan paid for by the city, with an enhanced plan that a city employee could buy if the employee desired.

The proposed enhanced plan is identical to the city’s current health insurance.

“The number that everyone will glom onto is the change in the deductible,” Sistrunk prefaced. “But the truth of the matter is, this year, 73 percent of our employees have not had a charge that would apply to their deductible.”

The current deductible is $750 for a single plan option and $2,250 for a family plan option.

According to Sistrunk, only a significant procedure would bring an employee to the proposed deductible, which is $3,000 for a single plan option and $6,000 for a family plan option.

“So very few people are ever going to hit that deductible number, or even have charges applied to it,” Sistrunk added.

McGriffin Insurance told the city representatives they currently over-insure city employees, but the board believes the change is still better than what most employers offer.

“We have a good product,” Sistrunk concluded.

Once the improvements to the current city parks have bee made, Sistrunk believes the parks will require less maintenance money in the future.

Due to a tight budget, Sistrunk thinks the board will have to make a decision toward what it wishes to prioritize in terms of funds.

“We have some new debt service. We owe the money, and we are obligated to pay it,” Sistrunk said. “And we needed to account for that when we were building the budget.”

Currently, the board hopes to improve the city’s parks and roads.

“If we want to bring our parks and our streets up to where they need to be, there’s going to have to be funding for them,” Sistrunk said.

One potential possibility for additional funding could come from use taxes because sales taxes are not helping the city as much as they have in the past due to business outside of local businesses.

In other business, the city has budgeted around $440,000 for the Parks and Recreation improvements for the Parks and Recreation master plan, which aims to get the city’s parks “up to speed.”

“This is to get the current parks to the position they need to be in,” Sistrunk said. “And then, as we get that done, start to transition that to potentially a new facility at Cornerstone.”

Currently, only the state benefits from use taxes.

Currently, municipalities across Mississippi, including Starkville as of last night, are asking the state to allow local governments to bene t from uses taxes, including sales on the internet.

As of last night’s budget work session, the city plans to continue its use of garbage bags instead of the previously discussed option to pay for re-usable bins. There may be a change in the delivery method in the future.
However, nothing is yet finalized.

“I don’t think we’re ready to have a trash bag discussion,” Mayor Lynn Spruill said.

Overall, the amount needed to fund the major policy changes proposed for the coming fiscal year will cost the board close to $836,000. The total budget expenses for the 2018- 2019 fiscal year amount to just under $22 million.

BOARD OF ALDERMEN MEETING

All board members were present for the Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night.

During the Board of Aldermen meeting, the aldermen granted partial variance relief, approving one variance relief instead of two, to a commercial development located at 210 and 211 Jackson St.

Ward 3 Alderman David Little initially made a motion to approve both variance reliefs, but Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker made a friendly amendment to Little’s motion.

Walker suggested to approve variance relief for the development’s awning height, but he was in favor of denying variance relief to allow for a reduction in sidewalk.

“My amendment would be to approve the variance for the upper, but to deny the variance for reduction in sidewalk,” Walker said.

With the amendment, the board approved the variance relief 6-1, with Perkins opposed.

The board also approved the rezoning of a lot located on 300 Yellow Jacket Dr., near Pleasant Acres, with a vote of 6-0. Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller abstained from voting.

The lot was rezoned from R-1 zoning to R-3A zoning.

“I didn’t feel like I had the proper information in front of me, and so I chose to abstain,” Miller said of why he chose not to vote.

The correct information was not put in the board’s original packets, and according to Mayor Lynn Spruill, there was confusion over what was in the packet and what was not in the packet.

“You never want the board to be making a decision without the accurate data in front of them,” Spruill said.

In this particular case, though, the board was already familiar with the property on Yellow Jacket Drive due to previous rezoning requests, allowing the six representatives who voted to feel comfortable enough to vote.

Category: