Holloway proposes 18 percent higher budget – with a surprise

Mayor A.J. Holloway today unveiled a $209.9 million proposed municipal budget, an 18.4 percent increase over last year and the largest budget in the history of the city.

Holloway’s budget proposal, which council members began reviewing in a budget hearing this morning at City Hall, includes $92 million in capital projects budgets, divided between a $29.1 million proposed outlay for major improvements, and a $62.9 million mostly federally-funded budget that is expected to double as bids are received for replacing or repairing the dozens of city facilities destroyed or damaged in Hurricane Katrina.

The budget also includes a surprise: Property-tax revenue, which some had expected to decrease as much as 30 percent in the wake of Katrina, is expected to increase more than 26 percent over FY ‘06 because of construction in the months after Aug. 29, 2005 storm.

“The amount of tax revenue generated by the cost of refurbishments and improvements at those casino resorts that opened months after the storm means that our personal property tax revenue – the value of fixtures, furnishings and so forth – has more than doubled,” Holloway said. “And real property taxes – the value of land and buildings – increased by more than 20 percent as a result.

“Having this stable of a tax base means that taxes remain low for homeowners, and for the 14th year in a row, we’ve been able to propose a budget that has no city property tax increase, and, this year offers an unprecedented level of improvements.”

Among the major capital projects expected to be included in the city’s capital projects budget is $2 million for initial land acquisition of property to extend Popp’s Ferry Road from Pass Road to U.S. 90.

The overall $10 million project – which proposes to use $4 million in Mississippi Development Authority grants and $2 million acquired through Gulf Regional Planning Commission – would cost the city a total of $4 million. Holloway is proposing the city budget the remaining $2 million for the project in FY 2008.

Also included in the budget are carryover projects including the widening of Veterans Avenue ($1 million), and the widening of Brodie and Brashier roads ($1.25 million apiece). To see the existing capital projects budget, as shown in the State of the City report in May, click here.)

The supplemental Katrina reconstruction budget totals $62.9, representing the cost to repair or replace 82 city-owned facilities that were destroyed or damaged in Hurricane Katrina. (To see a list of the destroyed or damaged city properties, as contained in the State of the City Report in May, click here.)

The city’s $209 million budget also includes $23 million for the Biloxi Public School system, and $8.2 million for property, liability, Workmen’s Compensation and employee health insurance costs.

In the proposed budget, $21 million is projected in gaming revenue, $11.5 million in sales taxes, and $7.7 million in property taxes.

A final budget, which would fund municipal operations from Oct. 1, 2007 to Sept. 30, 2008, is expected to be in place by mid-September. Council members are scheduled to continue their discussion of Holloway’s proposal in a second workshop on Aug. 7 at 10 a.m., and hold a public hearing later that day, at 6 p.m.