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City faces $280,000 shortfall

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
March 8, 2001
Meridian Chief Administrative Officer Ken Storms said a slowdown in sales tax revenues and fine collections are the primary culprits behind a shortfall in the city budget.
While stopping short of any doomsday prediction, Storms did say things could get worse for the city.
In fact, if revenue doesn't pick up he said the city could be staring at an estimated $700,000 shortfall for the fiscal year  although he said city officials are hopeful of a turnaround.
Smith was in Washington lobbying government officials to help fund a highway interchange for a new Lauderdale County industrial park. Smith was also meeting with government officials to lobby for a housing grant on behalf of the Meridian Housing Authority.
Storms told city council members at Tuesday's regular meeting that department heads have been alerted that cuts could be coming. He said city leaders are considering an "across the board" cut in city government to neutralize the growing deficit, which may include trimming special projects.
Because this year's budget was so lean to begin with, Storms said, leaders have had to look closely to find areas that can be cut.
In order to bring the approximately $25 million general fund into balance, Storms said some positions inside city government will probably not be funded as people resign or retire, but the CAO stopped short of saying the city is facing a hiring freeze.
Storms said 54 positions are currently not funded.
In preparing the fiscal year budget city leaders had already eliminated several positions by not funding the jobs including six firefighters' positions.
The new Wal-Mart Supercenter is expected to give the city a boost in tax revenue, but Storms said those gains will likely not be fully felt until next year.
He also made mention of a 1,500-home retirement community development project that may be located in Meridian as another large revenue generator for the city. He declined to outline specifics, saying deal isn't sealed.
But if revenues don't begin an upward swing, Storms said city leaders will do whatever it takes to solve the problem, including cutting services.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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