Meridian Budget Talks Update

Meridian, Miss. Meridian residents will get the opportunity Tuesday, September 10th to express their views about how money for next year's budget should be spent. Currently, the only possible tax increase that council members are considering would honor a request from the school district for $148,658 more in funding.

With a proposed balanced budget that is roughly 2% higher than last year's, the Meridian City Council is expected to officially vote on a budget for next year next week. At this time, council president George Thomas says the council is leaning toward cutting Mayor Percy Bland's proposed budget for homeland security in half to $200,000 dollars.

"Right now we're looking at a cut to bring that to where it was last year. That includes money for police and fire training. It does not include any increase in that budget."

Thomas says he also expects the council to reduce the mayor's proposed salaries for the community development director and police chief.

"The majority of the council I think at this time, based on discussions I've heard, is not in favor of those increases. The discussion that we had at the work session was that those salaries would go back to where they were last year, which would be about $10,000 less than what the mayor proposed."

With a proposed budget of about $34,805,000 for next year, council members and the mayor agree on a livable wage increase for city workers. It would increase the pay for workers who make below $9 an hour to that rate, and give employees who make between $9 an hour and $40,000 a year a $400 raise.

During Tuesday's public hearing city council members will not answer questions. Instead, they will hear residents' concerns and suggestions, and use that information when considering a final budget.

Tuesday's public hearing will start at 5:30 PM inside the city council's chambers at city hall. Each speaker will have to sign in at the door, and be given five minutes to speak. If there is a very large number of speakers, Councilman Thomas says each person's allotted time could be reduced.