City finances are front and center these days

There’s a story about city finances in the upcoming August issue of the citywide newsletter — “2018 audit: City gets encouraging financial news” — but now Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich and City Councilmembers find themselves in 2019 and working on a 2020 budget that has a host of big-ticket expenses.

“We have better news to report than in a long time,” auditor John Prentiss of the firm Piltz, Williams, LaRosa and Co. told leaders a few weeks ago as he reviewed the city’s latest audit. The snapshot of the city’s finances covering the period from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018, the most-recent fiscal year, was a clean audit, with no discrepancies.

The good news: Prentiss said, and the city took in more money than it spent, even though the city had forecast a budget deficit in its original spending plan.

The annual city audit, known as the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, includes reviews of city compliance with state and federal spending laws, budget performance and financial management. The report provides councilmembers the latest audited budget information, which covers FY 2018, as they prepare for FY 2020.

For FY 2018, the city was $200,000 off its original revenue projection of $59.6 million, while expenditures planned that year, originally tabbed at $62.2 million, were held to $58 million.

And now, three-quarters of the year into the FY 2019 budget, councilmembers are working on the spending plan for FY 2020, which begins Oct. 1. The new budget must be in place Sept. 15, a month a half away.

“That 2018 report was certainly encouraging,” Gilich said. “Right now, we have 25 percent left of FY 2019 to complete and things seem to be on track as far as revenue and expenditures for the current year.

“Budgets are always fluid, and it always depends on what you have to have and what it would be nice to have. The basic goal is to provide the services that Biloxi residents and businesses have come to expect and deserve, and to do that while keeping costs low.”

Gilich and councilmembers continue to grapple with a FY 2020 spending plan that must include several new and recurring expenses: an $800,000 unfunded mandate from the state that increases the city’s share of employee retirement contribution from 15 to 17 percent; and the need to replace aging vehicles in the city’s police and fire departments.

Said the mayor: “These vehicles – and equipment in all departments – have life cycles. We’ve stretch the utility of these vehicles as far as we could, but nobody wants an antique fire truck responding to a medical emergency. And the state defines an antique fire truck as 25 years.

“I’m confident that the City Council and I are going to continue to work over the next several weeks to craft a budget that works well for all of Biloxi and continues to provide an outstanding level of service.”
From upcoming BNews August issue: Highlights of the 2018 audit
See the 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
Video: July 22 budget meeting (Police, Fire, Community Development)
Video: July 23 Council meeting (Panhandling, infrastructure, other issues)
Video: July 23 budget meeting (Parks & Rec, Engineering, Public Works, Legal, Legislative)

News & notes: Immunization fair, children’s health fair, BTV

Immunization fair: The annual Excel By 5 Immunization Fair continues this week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Coastal Family Health Center, 715 Division St. The event is open to ages 5 to 13. To view the flyer, click here.

Children’s health fair: The Rotary Club of Edgewater will host its 33rd Annual Children’s Heath Fair on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Edgewater Mall, south entrance of Belk inside the mall. The affair is free and will have back-to-school screenings. To view the flyer, click here.

BTV tonight: See a trio of City Council meetings tonight on BTV. There’s Tuesday’s regular meeting (issues of panhandling, infrastructure) airing tonight at 8:30; and see the budget meetings at 9:25 p.m. (Police, Fire, Community Development) and at 11:02 p.m. (Parks & Rec, Engineering, Public Works, Legal and Legislative).