The city of Pearl has taken a prudent approach to the city’s finances over the past 15 months, choosing to reduce spending rather than raise taxes.
For the next fiscal year, the city’s millage rate remains at 27.5 mills and the millage rate for the Pearl School District remains at 60.40 mills.
In 2017, when the current mayor and board of alderman took office, the city’s budget was around $22 million. Last year, the city trimmed it to $18.9 million.
“I knew the struggles the city was having were daily operations,” Mayor Jake Windham said. “We have good revenues. I had a gut feeling we can run a lean budget so we did our due diligence and took the most stringent route. I felt we could dig deep while still doing the necessary things.”
This year, once again, the city did not raise taxes.
“When you decline financially, it makes everything suffer,” Windham added. “We hold ourselves accountable. Raising taxes aren’t necessarily the answer. I didn’t think we had a lean budget like you have at home. We worked with city employees and department heads to create a culture of fiscal responsibility for the city. And they bought in and we were able to turn everything around. This is the first time in eight years we didn’t borrow to pay bills.”
The savings came through reviewing every dollar that was spent and making smart decisions, like implementing a purchase order system.
But this included making difficult choices.
“You can’t cut enough office supplies when you are short falling $100,000 a month,” Windham said. “We knew we had to send people home. We had 20 leave through attrition and had 15 more layoffs.”
For the next year, the budget will increase in key areas.
“As we build revenues, we concentrate on the fundaments of government, then branch out,” Windham said. “We’ve increased where necessary, including road repairs and the clean up of the community.”
The city will also incur new expenses. They are picking up the two percent increase that city employees will pay into the Public Employment Retirement System and health insurance has gone up 18 percent over the previous year.
The city is also on the hook for $800,000 for its share of the Pearl-Richland Intermodal project that will construct a bridge over the railroad tracks on South Pearson Road.
But Windham says the city is on the right track.
“We are making bond payments we weren’t and we look to come in under budget.”