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Coast city must make cuts; facing multi-million-dollar deficit

GULFPORT — Gulfport city officials are being told they are going to have to make millions of dollars in spending cuts.

Gulfport is on track to end this fiscal year with a $1 million deficit that could climb to $4 million in 2013, finance director Mike Necaise said.

The problems include revenue shortfalls and increased costs, including upkeep on post-Katrina buildings financed with federal money.

The Sun Herald reports sales taxes are coming in as projected, but Harrison County expects lower property appraisals will reduce Gulfport’s property taxes by about $500,000 for 2013. Also, rental income, franchise fees and court fines are lower than projected.

The police and leisure services 2012 budgets had to be amended at yesterday’s City Council meeting to add $700,000 because expenses have been higher than expected.

A couple of council members suggested the city needs to consider cutting salaries for future employees. The average hourly employee earns more than $38,000 a year before benefits are added, Councilman Rusty Walker said.

Walker’s research indicates a city salaried employee earns an average of more than $60,000 a year before benefits.

The average salary for a Mississippi household, census figures show, is less than $37,000.

“It’s time for business as usual to go out the window,” Walker told his fellow council members.” When we have these reductions in revenue, there’s no way to sustain it. It’s time for a change in thinking.”

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