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April 11, 2014 10:32:34 AM
Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins gave a stern warning for Starkville Sanitation and Environmental Services employees: If you do not work a full eight hours per day, you will lose your job.
During Starkville Budget and Audit Committee's first preliminary meeting Thursday, Perkins said he does not believe all of the department's laborers are working a full eight-hour work day.
Those that are skirting responsibilities, he said, should no longer receive a paycheck.
His comments came on the heels of the three-person committee receiving Sanitation Director Emma Gandy's Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget proposal, a plan that asks for an additional $233,000 in revenue, or what about 1.25 mills of ad valorem taxes bring into Starkville's coffers.
Additional revenue, Gandy told aldermen, is needed to subsidize various departmental needs, from an extra $50,000 for garbage bag disbursements to $75,000 combined for landfill consultant expenses and equipment.
Perkins, along with budget committee members Scott Maynard and Lisa Wynn, gave Gandy a pointed message: Tighten the department's financial belt, balance its budget and continue to do the job based on FY 2013-2014 allotments.
Last year, aldermen approved a $1.50 sanitation rate increase to help offset rising departmental costs. The board reached that figure after rejecting a proposed $3 increase. Gandy told aldermen that, unlike other departments that can slide revenues in from other streams, the sanitation department is dependent upon monies derived by city rates.
Perkins, the city's vice mayor and longest-tenured alderman, said he's tired of departments coming back to the board year after year and asking for more money. Aldermen floated the idea of various cost-saving measures, including bids to completely outsource sanitation services.
There is no board will, he said, to support another tax hike or sanitation rate increase for the FY 2014-2015.
Employees' job performances, Perkins said, present a grave concern to the city and its taxpayers.
"I'm confident we're not getting eight hours based on the vice mayor's understanding of the operation and how things are going down in your department. In light of that, we need to look at all options," he said in reference to potentially outsourcing sanitation services. "If it's revealed to me that they're not working eight hours a day, they can go home and find themselves another job. They can be affected with my vote immediately.
"No reprimand, no counseling session - just go home. I wouldn't think twice about it," Perkins added.
The vice mayor also took aim at the department's handling of garbage bag disbursements this fiscal year. The sanitation department changed to a thinner bag last year. Disbursements were also delayed.
Even with the change, the sanitation department was $16,000 over budget with that specific line item as of Feb. 28. Gandy's budget proposal asks for $50,000 to offset costs and allow the department to disburse thicker bags.
"We need some good, quality garbage bags. We can't have the garbage bags we have now, period," Perkins said. "You're going to just get a bottom-line budget within your existing revenue, and that's all you can do. That's why you're the director - you're going to have to make those decisions. I've had enough matters of circumstances where 'I need money.' Make it work with what you have."
Gandy, if authorized by the board Tuesday, will begin research on numerous outsourcing proposals discussed by aldermen, including landscaping and sanitation services. She is also expected to be tasked with preparing a request for proposals and cost-saving analysis on switching the city from garbage bag disbursals to tipper bins. City officials said they will also review a Waste Management contract to see if there is any flexibility that will allow Starkville to find another recycler.
Maynard, the committee chairman, said he will make those research-authorizing and proposal-seeking motions at the next board meeting but cautioned that they could be either edited or voted down by the city's other representatives.
The committee took no official action Thursday. Maynard said he will bring back preliminary departmental budget discussions to the full board of aldermen for discussion. These early budgetary meetings serve only as a guide post for future planning sessions, he said.
The city operates on a 21.98-mill ad valorem rate after incoming aldermen raised taxes last year from 20 mills. Increased revenues were needed, aldermen begrudgingly admitted during FY 2013-2014 planning process, to tend to increasing expenses, including a long-overdue pay raise for city employees, departmental requests, outside contributions and its plan to fund construction on a new city hall.
Aldermen originally called for a tax hike of almost 3 mills but settled on the 1.98-mill increase after syphoning funding from vacant city positions, delaying administrative hires and moving monies around to satisfy a Starkville Parks Commission budgetary increase.
Additional funding was needed to help SPC pay overdue electric bills.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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