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West Point ‘back in the green’


Jason Browne



WEST POINT -- Money was again the focus for West Point''s Board of Selectmen during its Tuesday meeting, but maintaining savings has taken the place of cutting costs. 


City Administrator Randy Jones says the city budget has been stabilized after a back-and-forth flurry of policy chances and reversals by the board. 


"We''re now back in the green in everything but one department. We''re still $14,000 overbudget in one department," said Jones, who declined to name the lone overbudget department. 


City Accountant Lisa Klutts presented the board with a budget projection showing a $152,000 surplus at the end of the fiscal year assuming sales revenues remain constant, which she considers a near impossibility. 


"There''s not going to be (a surplus). This is just a starting point. Revenues will be down," said Klutts. 


The board has trimmed $528,000 in expenses from the budget in recent months. But Klutts says the city isn''t out of the woods. 


"The bad news is we can have a balanced budget at the end of the year and still have a cash flow situation," she said. 


Mayor Scott Ross agreed that any projection of steady sales tax was unrealistic and the board should continue searching for ways to cut costs. 


Ward 3 Selectman Charles Collins predicted sales tax would be up in February and March as citizens spend their federal and state income tax refunds. He asked Klutts to check sales trends for each month going back to 2005. 




Delinquent fines 


Ward 5 Selectman Jasper Pittman insisted the city should more vigorously pursue more than $600,000 owed in delinquent court fines. 


Pittman''s suggestion led to a discussion about ending a court monitoring program which places electronic tracking devices on individuals who owe the city money in order to keep track of their whereabouts while allowing them to work to pay off their fines. 


Ward 2 Selectman Homer Cannon wants to scrap the program, but Jones says it''s preferable to paying $30 a day to keep the offenders in jail where they can''t earn money. Furthermore, Jones says the offenders are ordered to pay $8 a day to pay the cost for the monitoring device. 


The board agreed to make no decisions regarding the program until it could meet with Municipal Court Judge Mark Cliett and Municipal Court Clerk Rommell Thomas 




Meter reading 


The board also discussed its contract with North Mississippi Utility Service for meter reading services. The board sent the service a letter late last year stating its intention to cancel its contract with the company and provide its own meter readers from the West Point Water and Light Department. 


Because the board has disagreed as to whether designating city employees as meter readers will save money or cost money, City Attorney Orlando Richmond asked whether he should contact NMUS to rescind the letter or allow it to stand. 


The board took no action with regard to the letter. 




In other business the board:



  • Heard from attorney Scott Colom of the Mississippi Center for Justice who requested the board place a moratorium preventing further payday lending companies from opening in West Point with an eye toward a permanent ban. Starkville recently moved to place a 12-month a moratorium on such businesses. 


  • Heard from Dr. Johnnie Rasberry who disputed a $75 invoice he received from the city in January charging him for the cleaning of a ditch on his property without first asking him to clean the ditch. 


  • Designated 12 old city vehicles as surplus to be put up for auction. 


  • Appointed Alecia Randle to the Housing Authority Board. 


  • Agreed to renegotiate the city''s lease agreement with Ultralife Batteries. 


  • Tentatively approved providing jobs to Prairie Opportunity clients provided the city won''t have to pay to insure the employees or cover them under workman''s compensation. Prairie Opportunity will provide salaries for the employees to the city, or any participating business, through grant funds.





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