City Council passes 2 mill increase after public hearing

September 9, 2017

 

 

Before an overflow crowd at City Hall, the Picayune City Council held an open hearing today to decide as to whether adopt the budget before them with a proposed 4.75 millage increase from 36.61 mills to 41.36 mills, or go another route.   In the end, the council approved a 2 mill increase to be levied for fiscal year 2018.

 

The meeting lasted just over an hour and involved quite a few addresses including Police Chief Bryan Dawsey and Public Works Director Eric Morris.

Both Dawsey and Morris gave passionate and well informed speeches about the current pay status of employees in their departments as well as the overwhelming tasks before them daily with a shortage of workers.

 

Businessmen and residents Garland Crosby and Bill Edwards addressed the council and stressed the importance of economic development for Picayune which would in turn create a greater tax basis with more people working and houses being built.

 

After an initial session and a recess, the council reconvened and Councilman Wayne Gouget made a motion to raise the tax levy by 2 mills.  The motion carried with by a 4-1 vote with Gouget, Mayor Ed Pinero, Tammy Valente, and Jan Miller Stevens voting for the increase with Larry Breland voting against.

Lynn Bumpers was not present at the meeting.

 

WRJW News will have a detailed report on the meeting later today.

 

Addition:

 

 

Before an overflow crowd at City Hall, the Picayune City Council held an open hearing today to decide as to whether adopt the budget before them with a proposed 4.75 millage increase from 36.61 mills to 41.36 mills, or go another route. In the end, the council approved a 2 mill increase to be levied for fiscal year 2018.

 

The meeting lasted just over an hour and involved quite a few addresses including Police Chief Bryan Dawsey and Public Works Director Eric Morris.

 

Chief Dawsey pointed out that the current starting pay per hour place the Picayune Police Department at the lowest in the area. Picayune $12.10, PRCC $13.75, Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department $15.52, Poplarville Police $16.31. 

 

“All I asked at the budget hearing was for this council and city admin to come up with a solution for this problem I didn’t even ask to be the highest paid,” Dawsey said. “Just to close the gap in pay so that we can at the very least be competitive with these other agencies these agencies continue to employees recruit this department’s officers that we have trained and paid for their certifications this must stop.”

 

Since 2014, Picayune has lost 14 support personnel and 35 police officers for a total of 49.

Those 35 officers have cost the department approximately $3750 in training per officer. Picayune Police Department  has become a training provider for other area agencies.  

 

The low salary has resulted in many officers and fire firefighters taking second jobs to support their families, Dawsey explained. 

 

“Look the men and women here love working for this city or they wouldn’t be here. They want to serve this community they want to be police offices they want to give back they don’t want to leave,” Dawsey said. “But when other offers come in with $5K to $8K per year pay increases, you can’t blame them for leaving. What reason do they have for staying? What incentives are we providing them?”

 

 Public Works Director Eric Morris also address the council on the lack of funds and man power his department faces. 

 

“We all are good partners of the city,” Morris said. “Our jobs in Public Works can only generate revenue

selling water and natural gas. We face daily challenges due to a lack of man power and there is  much work to do and so little people to do it.” 

 

Business owners and residents also addressed the council such as Garland Crosby, who stressed the importance of economic development. 

 

“We need to find a way to market the City of Picayune,” Crosby said. “Picayune is taxed to death. We need to find another way. We need to find companies to come here and build their stores, like Rooms To Go in Pearl River. Why can Pearl River have that but we can’t? It hurts me everytime I drive by those large distribution centers just across the border.“

 

After hearing from department heads and business owners the council members where at faced with a difficult decision. 

 

“I look at tax increases and we’ve increased about 6 or 7000 dollars over the last 8 years our revenue is going up but when it comes to tax increases its a draw on the economy and it affects people you have little old ladies who are on fixed income 50 or 100 more a month is a lot of money for them,” Councilman Wayne Gouget said. “Chief makes a passionate plea, it’s just hard for me to increase taxes. It’s something that never comes down. I can’t tell you how many phone calls I get form people who say ‘I do not want to go up on taxes’ and that’s the people who are elected me, so it’s difficult for me to sit here and go up taxes it really is.” 

 

Councilperson Tammy Valente echoed Gouget’s thoughts.

“I understand what our employees are facing and I want to find a way. I know we must do something,” Valente said. “There’s no easy decision here.”

 

After an initial session and a recess, the council reconvened and Councilman Wayne Gouget

made a motion to raise the tax levy by 2 mills. The motion carried with by a 4-1 vote with Gouget,

Mayor Ed Pinero, Tammy Valente, and Jan Miller Stevens voting for the increase with Larry Breland

voting against. Lynn Bumpers was not present at the meeting.

 

As he stated previously in other meetings, Councilman Breland felt the increase was not enough and that was why he voted against it. 

 

“I am one that likes as much economic equality as I can get but as things go up we’ve got to increase,” Breland said. “From from my understanding  of the budget we’re talking about 3% increase, but to me thats insulting. That’s like a slap in the face.”

 

So what does the additional $180,000 mean to the budget? This new projected revenue can

be arbitrarily allocated across the city and would allow the city to give raises to emergency personnel

which has been the sentiment of most citizens if a millage increase did pass.

The council must now hold another budget workshop between now and next Friday in order to stay compliant. WRJW will keep you up to date as this story continues to evolved.

 

 

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