Meadville 'marathon' session focuses on budget

by Sean Dunlap

In a marathon, four-hour meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13, the Meadville Board of Aldermen spent the majority of its time hashing through two budgets — adjusting overspending under the town’s current revenue and spending plan and looking ahead to setting a final budget for fiscal year 2023.

In addition during the session, the panel voted to raise ad valorem taxes in the new fiscal year budget while also awarding municipal employees a 5 percent cost-of-living pay increase.

For roughly the first two hours of the meeting, aldermen slogged through a host of line items — including everything from building supplies to insurance as well as oil and fuel — that cost more than had been previously budgeted during fiscal year 2022.

The panel moved dollars from related areas within the general fund budget that had surplus reserves to shore up any shortcomings.

Elsewhere, municipal leaders were forced to tap their internet sales tax revenues to make up for shortfalls tied to its enterprise fund, which includes the town’s water and sewer service systems.

From there, the focus turned to adopted a budget for the fiscal year that starts Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, and runs through Sept. 30, 2023.

The board increased the town’s ad valorem tax levy from the previous 28.5 mills to 30 mills — citing a need for additional revenue to maintain the level of municipal services.

Still, officials said — even with the slight increase — there is not a lot of wiggle room in the new budget because the town is facing increased costs for just about everything it has to purchase or contract for.

Aldermen labored to make certain they had sufficient funds needed to keep the town afloat financially while considering raises for police officers, public works personnel and town hall staffers.

“The bottom line is we’re seeing pretty much anything we do costing us more and we have to balance that by being responsible for the taxpayers’ money,” Town Clerk Leslie Thompson said in addressing budget concerns.

“We’ve cut our budget to the bone and it would be difficult to do what we need to do as a town in providing necessary services without a small tax increase, which hasn’t happened here in a long time.”

The budget and tax levy passed by a 4-0 margin with Alderman David Scarbrough not present for the meeting.

In other action during the meeting, the Meadville Board of Aldermen:

• Voted to transfer $21,112.92 from the town’s water and sewer operations to the general fund to cover Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality payments from sales taxes.

• Listened to concerns about the road conditions along North Olive Street from Meadville businessman Tyler Blalock.

“The road is starting to deteriorate on top of the hill and part of it is because water is coming across it,” Blalock said.

“It’s been about a year since work was done on the road, and I know money’s tight, but any help you could provide would be appreciated.”

Blalock said previous work at the site involved some ditching to try to divert the water, but he suggested building up the height of the road to direct stormwater runoff into the nearby drainage system.

In others matters, Blalock asked town leaders about municipal plans to address flooding in the wake of storms that inundated his business — Rural Rapid Response ambulance service — this summer.

He also asked if the town had looked at or would consider participating in the National Flood Insurance Program to allow those inside the corporate limits that would qualify for the initiative to apply for such coverage.

Blalock discussed the property at 341 Walnut Street where a house was destroyed by fire with the charred remains still standing.

“I think we all have some concerns about that, but it is tied up in litigation,” he went on to say.

“We’re waiting on the attorneys to do their thing, and I have an estimate in place to tear the remains of the house down in an effort to get the area cleared up.”

He also asked town leaders to work with Rural Rapid Response in regards to the upcoming Homochitto River Festival due to planned road closures for the event on Saturday, Oct. 22 to allow for unfettered ingress and egress for ambulances.

• Approved closing out the Mississippi Small Municipalities and Limited Population Counties grant that was used to resurface portions of Main and Oak streets in downtown Meadville as the project has been successfully completed.

• Discussed a contract letter from Environmental Water Solutions LLC seeking to increase fees — from the current $1,400 to $2,500 — for work done with town’s water and sewer systems. Aldermen said they simply did not have the funds to cover such an increase and asked Thompson to notify the service provider of the situation.

• Approved two utility adjustments — $24.18 for a meter belonging to Sam Smith that was read incorrectly and $16.78 for sewer fees associated with a water leak at the residence of Michelle Barrett.
• Rejected uninsured motorist coverage as part of the town’s policies for vehicles for the upcoming year.

• Accepted an inspection report provided by Dungan Engineering related to a review of the town’s elevated water tanks.

• Adopted a recommendation to hold community trick-or-treating from 2 to 6 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28.

Local business and organizations will be asked to once again participate in candy and treats distribution to area children.

• Heard a proposal to replace a non-functioning closed-circuit camera covering the water wells and tennis courts at the municipal park from Franklin Telephone Co., in the amount of $490.

The panel voted to approve the purchase and replacement of the camera.

• Tabled consideration of issues connected with the municipality’s golf cart ordinance and in considering proposals for services provided by a certified public accountant.

• The Meadville Police Department reported three shoplifting incidents at the Dollar General Market on Main Street.

• The Meadville Fire Department responded to four calls during the past month.

The next business meeting of the Meadville Board of Aldermen will be held at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 11.