I've now been to a public hearing for a nonexistent Budget - it sure was exciting! It was so important that even the Mayor didn't stay for the whole thing, and my Alderwoman wasn't there at all.
There were three pieces of paper handed out. The first was entitled "City of Natchez, Combined Cash Basis Budget, All Governmental Fund Types and Internal Service Funds, Fiscal Year 2006-7". This was a list of broad categories of Revenues (eg Taxes, Licenses & Fees, Bank Loans) and Expenses (eg General Government, Public Safety, Public Works) with amounts from five Governmental Fund Types (General, Special, Debt Service, Capital Projects, and Internal Service). Revenues and Expenses of all types equal $30,693,989.
The second sheet had no title, but I think it was a list of Revenue and Expense line items in the General Fund. One column was labeled October 1 2005-06 and the other October 1 2006-07. Although the next year's Budget was supposed to be the same as this years, the figures in the two columns did not match. Also, neither column seemed to match the first sheet.
The third sheet was totally worthless - a list of the same broad categories which were on the first handout, but with no amounts or fund types.
The hearing began with City Clerk Donnie Holloway reading the first handout with no explanation. That was certainly not very enlightening - unless you don't know how to read. Then the Mayor opened it up to questions and comments from the audience. Hardly anyone was there, since there was really no Budget to have a hearing on. A couple of people asked for funding for certain items. I asked if there would be a public hearing on the amended Budget, and I didn't get a direct answer. The Mayor said they didn't have to but they might. When I asked if the amended Budget itself would be made public, he said yes.
After the public hearing was closed, the Mayor had to leave. There was some discussion by the Board before they adopted the so called Budget. One thing was obvious to me: no one there really understood what they were voting on. Alderman Gray, who is not as dumb as some people think he is, said he knew of only four items they had voted to increase: Legislative, Police, Fire, and (I think) Public Works. He asked the City Clerk if those were the only items that had been changed in the Budget, and he was told yes. Afterwards, I asked Alderman Gray why there were differences between the two columns, if the only changes were the ones he mentioned. He said that's why he asked the question - to get it in the record.
It was really very scary to watch our elected officials deal with a $30+ million Budget. That's our tax dollars - and our city's future.