Meridian, Miss. After weeks of controversy, the Meridian City Council has passed the 2014 budget. Good news, tax payers. It's a balanced budget with no tax increase.
"The city of Meridian's tax millage remains the same as it has approximately 10 years. There's no increase in millage for city government," said Meridian City Clerk Ed Skipper.
However, Meridian Schools will have an increase of one-point-sixty-seven mills, and there were some major shifts in the budget. Homeland security and temporary workers saw big cuts, while public works was given an increase for equipment.
"This will allow them to purchase some equipment like bush hogs and back hoes and things like that. We shifted some money into there, we added about 108,000 dollars into public works from the proposed budget we received, so that'll be a big increase and I think the public will start seeing that," said Ward 1 Councilman George Thomas.
Many other aspects of Mayor Bland's original proposed budget were also altered. While he was in favor of switching health care providers to United Healthcare, the council was concerned swapping on such short notice could jeopardize some coverage for city employees, And said most were happy with their current coverage by Fox/Everett. The council said they are signing on with Fox/Everett at a lower cost, but the vote was split as many were in favor of the larger savings with United Healthcare.
"The mayor's big recommendation, obviously, the healthcare, and the $280,000 savings we could have used across the board," said acting CAO Curt Goldacker
Mayor Bland's proposed controversial department head salaries were also rejected by the council. Goldacker says he believes the mayor will continue to fight for those two budget changes. The council did, however, vote in favor of his livable wage proposition, which means every full time employee that has been with the city for a year will make no less than nine dollars an hour.