As per law according to Gulfport Police Chief Rob Vincent, city council must have a separate special meeting to pass the budget.
“The general fund budget of $11,542,913 continues to provide the residents and city of Gulfport daily services,” City Manager Jim O’Reilly said.
The budget was passed with little ado and has increased by $1,542,913 since last year, mostly to cover things such as the increasing cost of flood insurance and volunteer coordinator position added to the budget, according to O’Reilly.
Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman raised several questions about time tables and money allocations that were addressed by O’Reilly. A key point was the timetable for water infrastructure repair and and inquiries about a detailed plan for fixing the over 60 miles of sewer lines in Gulfport.
“I would think first you would want to commit yourself to a large sewer system upgrade. You would start with a study and look at the debt you would like to take on. We need to address the sewer system first,” O’Reilly said.
O’Reilly estimates around a five-year timetable to complete the sewer repairs but a study will be conducted in late December to assess the scope of the repairs and will provide council with information on how much and how quickly they should invest. The study is funded by the revolving loan fund.
The budget also highlighted some other ongoing issues that include $47,000 for the repaving of city alley ways and an increase in city positions such as library circulation manager, utilities account manager, a utilities technician and human resource assistant.
“Hearing that alleys will be paved is music to my ears,” Roman said.
Several currently unfunded projects that will be discussed in the near future were on the budget, including a new skatepark on the beach and a possible mobile entertainment stage. Unfunded projects are not in the current budget, but are on the table for discussion and possible funding later in the year or next fiscal year.
More details on the allocation of the $1.2 million received in the BP settlement will be discussed at the October 3 council meeting.
Council also unanimously passed a Ad Valorem tax levy which will add to the funding of general operations of Gulfport. The levy of 4.039 operating mills will be used for the fourth consecutive year, according to O’Reilly. The millage rate reflects the amount per $1,000 that is used to calculate taxes on property.
The fiscal year begins on October 1, 2015 and will expire on September 30, 2016.