Batesville Budget 2012

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2011

2012 Batesville budget: $500 pay raises, zero tax increase

By John Howell Sr. and Rita Howell

City of Batesville officials crunched numbers with CPA Bill Crawford again Wednesday during their second budget meeting of the week.

“At this point, you’re balanced and you’re legal,” Crawford told the mayor and aldermen when he presented a city budget that he had revised following a Monday meeting with the city officials.

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“This is a very tight budget still. Department heads are going to have to watch their expenditures,” Crawford said.

And at this point, it’s all on paper.

By state law, municipal and county governments in Mississippi must operate with balanced budgets. Those budgets must have been adopted by a mandated September 15 deadline to go into effect on October 1, after a public hearing and publication in the newspaper. Hence July and August budget meetings are held by city and county officials throughout Mississippi as they attempt to project revenues and expenses from October 1 through September 30 of the following year.

On Wednesday, aldermen set Batesville’s budget hearing for Tuesday, August 16, at 6 p.m. The budget will be adopted at the mayor and aldermen’s September 6 meeting.

CPA Crawford, during the years that he has worked with Batesville’s mayor and aldermen to develop the annual municipal budgets, has often described the process as “peering into our crystal ball.”

Once adopted, cities and counties are required by law to stay within their budgets. When expenses budgeted for departments increase by 10 percent or more, elected officials are required to notify citizens by published public notice and hold a hearing before amending the budget to allow the change.

The budget adopted Wednesday will not increase the city’s ad valorem tax millage, Crawford said.

Crawford used the transfer of $1 million from gas department revenues to balance shortfalls in other departments. Last summer, the mayor and aldermen had authorized a $1.3 million transfer from the gas department to show a balanced budget for fiscal 2010, but the transfer was never required, the CPA said.

The major item that Crawford added to the budget after Monday’s meeting was approximately $95,000 to cover a $500-per-employee annual raise for city workers.

Aldermen backed off several proposals for larger increases after the CPA calculated their full costs with benefits.

Monday’s consideration of raises for city employees had also prompted a lengthy discussion contrasting across-the-board raise with merit pay increases.

“How do you get away from that (across-the-board pay increases),” Alderman Stan Harrison asked, “where you compensate the people that need compensating and you may not compensate some of the ones who do not need compensating?”

“It’s hard to do,” Crawford replied. “We looked at that six or eight years ago. What it’s going to boil down to is the department heads would have to evaluate on an equitable basis their individual employees …”

“That’s what the Governor of Tennessee just did,” Alderman Ted Stewart said.

“There (are) resources out there,” Alderman Eddie Nabors said, citing among them the Stennis Institute at Mississippi State University.

“I wouldn’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Nabors added. “I would want to have the evaluation system in place,” before implementing a merit pay standard.

Department heads Mike Ross and David Karr, both of whom attended Monday’s meeting, said they favored a merit pay system.

“I think we should have done this 20 years ago,” Karr said.

Police Chief Tony Jones said that a merit system for consideration of promotion is already in place in the police department. Evaluation is conducted by a team of officers.

“I think that getting this (an evaluation system) implemented is a good start,” Harrison said.