The Meridian City Council aims to cut $800,000 from the FY 2003 general fund budget, in order to make the city's income next year match its expenditures.
State law does not allow a municipality to finish the year in the red. The meeting resulted in the trimming of $273,000, leaving the city with the possible predicament of being between a financial rock and a hard place.
The city's millage figure that determines the cost of automobile license plates and other fees has already been certified to the state. Each department head was re-interviewed and a number of big-ticket items were cut, such as street sweepers and funding for downtown civic events.
But some, like Police Chief Benny Dubose, saved a portion of the original requests.
"Twenty walkie talkies, 18 years old. This is what they look like," said Dubose, as he held one up. "This one doesn't have any channels. Send them to the shop, they don't bother to put them back together when they send them back."
Councilman Dr. George Thomas of Ward 1 said he was not disappointed in the result of Thursday's meeting.
"Oh no, and it's not easy you know," said Thomas. "We never thought it would be easy. There are times when you just have to make tough decisions. Then you make them."
Mayor John Robert Smith did not share Thomas' optimism.
"They started out to get $800,000. They only got $273,000 and these were painful cuts," said Smith. "The next $527,000 will be extremely difficult to achieve and very, very painful."
Council president Mary Perry of Ward 2 told her fellow councilpersons they would just have to meet again.
"I want you to look at it again," said Perry. "See what you can take off and we might have to leave off some of what we've just promised."