Budget-conscious Biloxi seeing impact of post-Katrina spending

Biloxi’s three primary revenue streams – taxes from gaming, sales and property – have rebounded or surpassed pre-Katrina levels, but Mayor A.J. Holloway says major spending since the storm is now being reflected in the city’s finances.

Holloway and members of the Biloxi City Council for weeks have been working on drafting a city budget for Fiscal Year 2009, which begins Oct. 1, 2008 and runs through Sept. 30, 2009.

So where has the money been spent since Katrina?

“We’ve faced increased expenses just like everyone else,” Holloway said. “You can look at things like equipment purchases, employee pay raises that cost a total of $4 million, as well as the increased cost of fuel and health insurance.

“We’ve spent what I would consider a huge amount of money – more than $15 million — on equipment since the storm,” Holloway said, noting that Biloxi has purchased nearly 200 vehicles and heavy machinery since the 2005 hurricane. “Insurance and FEMA pay for the depreciated value of equipment like cars and fire trucks, and the city has to pay the rest, which in some cases meant the city’s portion was more than the insurance money.”

The major purchases since Katrina:

— $5.3 million for 193 vehicles, including 112 police cruisers, 15 all-terrain vehicles, a street sweeper; sewer cleaner; and two flatbed trucks.

— $2.9 million for five fire trucks.

— $2.2 million for video systems, radar units and water-proof radios in the public safety department.

— $1.3 million for computers and copiers used in various city departments.

— $1.1 million for heavy equipment in the Public Works Department, including three tractors, three excavators, two loaders, a backhoe, road-striping machine, six pumps and an asphalt machine.

— $570,000 on five generators, including two to power the entire Lopez-Quave Public Safety Center.

Holloway and council members are grappling with a FY ’09 budget where, he said, “revenue remains flat.”

“We’ve rebounded well in terms of revenue, particularly when you look at the national economy,” Holloway observed. “Our challenge is to be in a position to provide our portion of the matching money for the storm-related infrastructure work we have to do, continuing our program of capital projects and still provide the day-to-day services that people expect and deserve. We certainly can do it, but we’re going to have to watch our expenditures very closely. This is why I’ve always said we’re healthy, not wealthy.”

Budget meetings continue Tuesday morning

The City Council will hold another in its series of budget meetings on Tuesday at 9 a.m. Council members are expected to discuss the city’s water, sewer and garbage rates, and non-departmental spending, which includes social service agencies and other organizations.

To see how social-service spending has increased over the years, click here.

To see how Biloxi water, sewer and garbage rates compare with other Coast cities, click here.

To see the other online city financial information, including a link to the city’s latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, click here.

To see how gaming taxes from Biloxi casinos have been divvied up between state and local governments from 1992 to today,
click here.