City council deadlocks after two-hour meeting

By Staff
WHAT TO DO? – Mayor John Robert Smith, left, and Chief Financial Officer Ed Skipper discuss possible changes to the proposed fiscal year 2003 city budget. Council members raised a number of budgetary questions Tuesday and delayed formal action on the document, a spending plan for the year starting Oct. 1. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Sept. 18, 2002
Meridian city councilmen delayed approving next year's budget Tuesday night so they can try to eliminate Mayor John Robert Smith's proposed 10 percent increase in water rates.
All five councilmen said they opposed Smith's plan to raise water rates by nearly 30 percent over the next three years including 10 percent for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
City leaders have spent the past few months crafting the $86.6 million proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The city council must adopt a budget by the end of the month.
Councilmen met in a work session earlier Tuesday to complete last-minute changes to the proposed budget. They originally planned to approve the budget Tuesday night.
Friday meeting
Instead, after discussing the proposed water rate increase, councilmen postponed a vote until a 1 p.m. meeting Friday.
During their Tuesday work session, councilmen considered trimming areas of the budget including reducing the amount of contributions the city makes to charitable and business organizations.
But the biggest discussion was over the water rates.
Ward 3 Councilman Barbara Henson said the council didn't realize until Tuesday night that the 10 percent water rate increase had been figured into next year's proposed budget.
Councilmen hashed out several possible solutions to the budget, including one proposal from Thomas to raise water rates 5 percent next year and cut the city's general fund budget by 1 percent.
Thomas' proposal, however, failed.
Major purchases
Mayor John Robert Smith said cutting the water rate increase would mean the city council would have to shave more off of its general fund and cut some "big-ticket items."
Henson said she hopes the council can find a definitive solution before Friday's meeting.
Smith, though, said not many changes can be made to the proposed budget by Friday.

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