Holloway: ‘Biloxi is healthy, not wealthy’

Mayor A.J. Holloway told the Biloxi Kiwanis Club Monday that the city of Biloxi is financially healthy — not rich — and must continue to be fiscally conservative.

Holloway took a number of financial questions head on during the 10-minute speech, including comments that “the city has more money than we know what to do with,” the city can’t spend money fast enough or the city has a huge cash surplus.

The mayor said that the city did indeed have $45.4 million on hand, but that the city spends between $8 million and $10 million a month on operating expenses and capital projects, and several costly projects are breaking ground this year.

“If there’s anything I want you to remember today,” Holloway said, “it’s this: Biloxi IS in good financial shape, but that doesn’t mean we are rich. It means we are HEALTHY. It means we must continue to be prudent and conservative. “We HAVE money. But having money is one thing. Knowing how to manage it is something else. And I’m going to do my best to make sure we keep managing it wisely.” In response to a question, Holloway said he would support the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art’s request for a million dollars to help construct its new museum, but added that he planned to make a full statement to the City Council on Tuesday.

During the speech, Holloway pointed out that the city has many obligations at a time when the local economy is no longer seeing a major increase in development.

“In the next three years alone, we’re going to spend about $60 million on major road projects,” he said, referring to new roads at Bayview, Caillavet and Popp’s Ferry. Also, between $6 million and $7 million would be spent in Woolmarket, where the city will install sewerage systems and a million-gallon water tower, and construct a new fire station and hire firefighters to man that station. The city also is in the midst of a three-year, $15 million revitalization plan for east Biloxi.

Holloway also noted that the city now gets 50 percent of its annual revenue from casino and sales taxes, while property taxes account for only 17 percent of the budget.

Wall Street financial advisers have repeatedly warned that the city’s credit rating could suffer if Biloxi became too reliant on gaming revenue to supplement operating expenses.

The mayor noted that the city has indeed lowered property taxes, and either abolished or reduced fees for everyday services.

“The plain fact is that you pay more in county taxes than you do in city taxes,” Holloway said, adding that Supervisors Bobby Eleuterius and Connie Rockco have worked with the city on several projects inside the city limits, “but we need to make sure we get every thing we are due from county taxes.”

To view the entire text of the speech please click here.