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City cutting costs again, but plans no layoffs due to budget woes

BILOXI — The Biloxi City Council is cutting expenses again but doesn’t plan any layoffs for the coming year and anticipates keeping water and sewer rates at the current level.

In a workshop yesterday, The Sun Herald reports the council took a first look at the budget for the fiscal year 2013-14, which begins Oct. 1.

City controller Scott McElroy said the general fund revenues are expected to be $53.8 million. Expenses are projected to be almost $3 million higher at $56.5 million.

Biloxi built a fund balance of several million dollars while the economy was strong. Since the recession hit South Mississippi in 2008, the council has whittled down the reserves by spending more than the city takes in. The beginning cash balance this year is $5 million.

“We’ve got to balance the budget. It’s going to take all of us to do it,” said Councilman George Lawrence.

David Nichols, chief administrative officer, said the city is hoping the renovations to the Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi and the new hotel tower under construction at Hard Rock Casino Biloxi will increase revenue. “Until the general economy turns around I don’t expect a big change in gaming revenues,” Nichols said.

One of the reasons the budget is tight is the city is facing a $460,000 increase this year to PERS — the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi. The contribution rose from 14.26 percent to 15.75 percent this year.

City personnel aren’t being cut but Nichols said services and supplies will be trimmed in every department, totaling $1.3 million in cost savings citywide.

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