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Aldermen Adopt Proposed City Budget

Main Street Manager Mickey Howley delivered his monthly report during the August 1 city meeting. Howley told city officials the organization started in Water Valley a decade ago.

 Budget talk was the primary topic during a pair of city meetings held during the last week as part of the annual process to adopt a budget for the city’s fiscal year that starts in October.   Mayor Larry Hart provided an overview of the proposed $3.2 million budget during the monthly meeting held August 1, but aldermen stopped short of adopting it until more details were discussed in a second meeting held Monday night.

Scheduling the second budget meeting also marked the first quandary for city officials when aldermen split votes on scheduling the second meeting. Newly elected aldermen Kagan Coughlin, Cinnamon Foster and Nicole Foster favored the second meeting while Alderman at Large Donald Gray and District 2 Alderman Fred White voted against the extra meeting.

Foster generated the most questions about the budget during the discussion, including questions about various inventory lists, insurance policies, and supporting documentation about the numbers used to generate the revenue and expenses for the city budget.

“I would love to sit down with you and go through the numbers,” Hart said.

“And this is the first time I have ever seen this, with no supporting documentation,” Foster continued, explaining that she has a responsibility as an alderman to know the details of the budget. 

“I’m sure that it is all correct, I am not questioning that, not at all, but I have to know because I am personally and financially responsible,” Foster added. She also cited informal meetings Hart had with other newly elected aldermen to discuss the budget prior to the August 1 meeting.

“I think I would like to adopt this tonight as the proposed budget and then I would be glad to meet with you any time on this other data that you are wanting. But it is fairly voluminous information,” Hart told Foster.

“I would like to make a motion to do a work meeting on the budget,” Foster said.

“Let me do it this way, then we will take that motion. Do I have a motion that we adopt this as our proposed budget?” Hart asked.

Alderman-at-large Donald Gray then motioned to adopt the proposed budget, prompting a request from Coughlin to handle Foster’s motion first.

“I will second Cinnamon’s motion to have a work session so that she can get her comfort with the budget,” Coughlin added. 

“I had time to learn about the budget. The mayor spent two hours with me, going line by line, answering all of my knit-picking questions,” Coughlin explained.

“I will just be open and honest with you. I will appreciate if you would go with this budget this time and then do these things in not such a pressed manner for the next budget,” Hart countered, as the timeline for the adopting procedure for the budget was cited. 

“I am offering to have a work meeting for us to meet again and get more information because this is not my money, this is the public’s money and for me to make a responsible decision I have to have more information,” Foster reiterated.

“So after we have a work meeting, we can come back to this. If we have any questions, issues, we can come back to the budget?” Folson asked.

“Nicole, you can do most anything you wanna do here. But we are on short time. I am willing to do whatever the board wants to do and I will do my best to participate. But I have a lot going on, quite frankly,” Hart answered.

“So do I,” Folson added.

“It’s a proposed budget, it is not adopted yet. It still has to be advertised and (public) hearing,” Gray noted.

“After it is published and there any changes to it, would we have to start over?” Coughlin asked.

“No, it does not start the process over,” Hart answered, referring to any potential changes after the proposed budget is adopted.

Coughlin then said he would be more comfortable getting every board member with the budget before it is adopted.

“But I don’t foresee any changes,” Coughlin added.

Foster’s motion to have a second work meeting on the budget then passed with a three-two vote.

Next the meeting was set for August 7 at 6 p.m. with another 3-2 vote.

“Too much time spent,” White said.

“I agree,” Hart said.

Other business conducted at the meeting included:

• Aldermen voted 4-1 to approve a 10-year industrial tax exemption for BorgWarner for new equipment added at the plant with an assessed value of $12,482,061. 

Hart explained that the county has already granted the exemption, before recommending for the city to take the same action.

Foster cast the sole dissenting vote against granting the exemption. 

“And that is because I don’t have any further information,” Foster said about her vote. The tax exemption generated several minutes of discussion prior to the vote as Foster first asked about the accompanying paperwork for the request and Foster and Coughlin each asked about other exemptions previously granted by the city.

“When you look at your true value and you do the ad valorem tax algebraic expression, how much money is that we are losing for the town revenue?” Foster also asked.

“You have never had it to start with, this is new equipment that has never been on the tax roll. What you are saying, you are going to exempt putting it on the tax roll,” Hart answered.

“Everyone appreciates when anyone invests this kind of money in our community,” Coughlin said, adding that he would like to see a breakdown of the current industrial tax exemptions and when they roll off.

Answering Foster’s question, Hart added that the taxable value for the city for the amount of the exemption would be $65,000 the first year, an amount that would decrease as the value of the equipment exempted would depreciate during the 10-year period.

• Heard an update from Main Street Director Mickey Howley on the approaching 10-year anniversary since the program was adopted in the city.  He said the Mississippi Main Street Association has plans to highlight Water Valley’s program as the standout transformation town in Mississippi during the last decade.

• Appointed Tommy Defer as special prosecuting attorney for a trial set on August 24 in an assault case trial. Hart explained a special prosecutor is needed because of a conflict of interest with the current prosecuting attorney. Defer will earn $300 for the work. 

• Received information from Board Attorney John Crow regarding updating the city’s public records policy. The policy will be addressed at a future meeting.  

• Entered executive session to discuss a potential litigation matter.

• Approved the minutes from the previous month’s meeting.

• Heard an update from Folson, Coughlin and Foster about attending the Mississippi Municipal League convention on the coast.

“The information was very helpful,” Folson said.

“We learned about municipal law, ethics and budgeting,” Foster added, noting that the newly elected group attended different classes on a variety of topics about city government.

“It was very valuable, it has been a while since I have been to school and I appreciate the opportunity,” Coughlin noted.

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