FY 2003 Projections

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Mayor John Robert Smith said Wednesday more money will be available for the 2003 city budget as a result of increased sales tax collections and probable ad valorem increases.

"However, as you heard council members say (Tuesday night) we're going to be frugal in how we spend that money," said Smith. "We will be able to do some catch up and delayed expenditures from last year. And fortunately this year's budget although projecting modest increases will allow us to do catch up not only on purchases of equipment but in some maintenance and repair."

Ed Skipper, the city's chief financial officer, confirmed the mayor's projection.

"We do feel we're in a much better position," said Skipper. "It's possible it could be as much as a million dollars," said Skipper.

A 2.5 percent salary increase for city employees has been built into the budget and an additional merit increase plan is under consideration.

As for the city leasing six acres near the training center to a private company for a new communication tower and using the lease money to pay for placing antennae that serve the county, 9-1-1, Metro Ambulance and other public organizations on the tower, the mayor said it wouldn't be fair to city taxpayers.

"The deal presented to me was city, here's a $600 lease," said the mayor. "Now you give the $600 back and we'll add another $150 to it and we'll hang everybody's antenna. Well our shareholders within the city then are obviously paying for somebody else's antennae. And I cannot legally subsidize some other set of taxpayers with the city of Meridian revenue for leasing the property."