Holloway budget: no city tax increase, $7 million in new projects

Mayor A.J. Holloway’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes no new property taxes for city operations, forecasts no revenue growth, yet includes $7.2 million in new public improvement projects.

The $142 million budget, which the mayor and City Council will begin discussing Tuesday morning, includes $22 million for Biloxi public schools. The school system, in the midst of a $50 million citywide construction program, is requesting a 3.75-mill increase — about $1.9 million — in funding, which may result in a property tax increase for Biloxi residents in the school district. Woolmarket residents may also face an increase through the Harrison County School District.

Most departmental spending in the new budget was kept below previous levels except for public works, which Holloway proposes to increase by $1 million due to increased wastewater costs.

The Council will discuss the budget during 9:30 a.m. sessions on Tuesday and Aug. 27, both at City Hall. The new budget takes effect Oct. 1.

“We’re holding the line on city property taxes, and the increase in school taxes was actually approved by voters in a referendum on the school bond issue,” Holloway said.

The mayor’s proposal includes about $7.2 million for new public improvement projects, and he proposes to set aside $700,000 a year for five years to be used to offset any interruptions in taxes on gaming revenue.

“We’ve been lucky that we have had no major disruptions in the revenue stream,” Holloway said, “but I think it’s in our best interest to set aside money specifically in the event of a major hurricane or other interruption. Currently, all money that comes in is budgeted on projects. This fund I am proposing would actually be self-insurance.”

Among the new capital projects in the budget: $1.25 million for Main Street urban renewal; $1 million for Sunkist drainage improvements; $1 million to reconstruct Nichols Drive as part of the east Biloxi revitalization project; $600,000 to construct two new fire stations; $550,000 to improve intersections on Pass Road; half a million to install a storm drain on Veterans Avenue from the CSX railway to U.S. 90; $250,000 for drainage improvements on Wildwood Trace; $250,000 to acquire land for a new fire station; and $190,000 for the final phase of drainage improvements on First Street on Point Cadet.