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Gulfport Officials Reach Compromise of Sorts on Budget

by Keith Burton  GCN   9/19/06

After a day of grandstanding, arguments and debate officials with Gulfport's city government worked out a tentative compromise over the city's budget for next year.

The day started around midday with an on-the-door-step of City Hall grandstand by Mayor Brent Warr, who announced that he was going to fulfill his threat to veto the a budget approved last week by the City Council. That budget did not have what Warr felt was needed, specifically, to substantially increase pay for some city workers, while giving most others a tiny three percent raise.

Warr argued that the city was in danger of losing some key people if the raises could not be made available. The City Council felt that a more even-handed raise across the board would be a better use of the city's money.

Later, when the council met, Warr exercised his veto. The Council did not seek to override the veto, but let it stand after an odd motion to accept the mayor's veto failed to get a second.

Later, a compromise was found of sorts. The City Council voted to cover half of what the mayor wanted on the salaries of some key positions and added a provision to conduct a study at a cost of $30,000 to examine what the salaries should be in the city.

The whole affair by some observers was of a city whose leaders, both in the administration and City Council are inexperienced and indecisive. State law requires that municipalities pass a budget by the end of September, or they cannot expend funds.

The city is facing a tight budget year as a result of the expenses stemming from Hurricane Katrina recovery. While there is federal and state help, the city also must meet its obligations. Some of the federal assistance must be matched by local money. Issues that are affecting the city's recovery include the loss of income from water and sewer customers throughout the beachfront. This is money needed to help repay the city's high water and sewer bond debts.

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