Meridian, Miss. Budget talks are continuing in Meridian. In fact, the city council held another work session Wednesday to discuss some money matters.
As the council is hearing from department heads about their needs, District 5 Councilman Randy Hammon is calling for a significant increase in funding for community development to address some of Meridian's problems.
"This has been going on for 20 years and the previous administrations did nothing about it," said Hammon. "Even though they were asked to look into our infrastructure and fix it, they spent a lot of money on other things and now we're in the situation that we're in."
Hammon says not only must the problem of abandoned properties be addressed, but also the issue of unkempt property and overall resident retention.
According to Hammon, anywhere from 25% to 30% of a city's funding should come from property taxes. However, with a declining population in Meridian over the years, that has not been the case. In fact, last year only 21% of the city's funding came from property taxes.
"We lost $800,000 last year in tax base, which is another 300 to 500 people. We have to turn that curve," Hammon said. "The money has always been there, but it has been allocated in to other areas. I know that we have salary problems and other problems, but this department is so under-funded that the money to come up for this department would not be a big task."
Hammon says additional money for the community development department should be used to hire more code enforcement officers. The city currently has two; however, Hammon says six are needed.
The city council will approve the 2014-2015 budget prior to the start of the new fiscal year Oct. 1.
Here's a department expenditure breakdown for the city's general fund budget last year:
Police - 25%
Fire - 22%
Public Works - 21%
Parks & Recreation - 8%
Community Development - 4%