City council reverses spending freeze

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- It’s the time of year many start thinking of New Year’s resolutions.

This year, the city of Columbus is on board after finding itself in a $881,000 hole.

At the December 18th council meeting, members voted to place a freeze on spending, however, that raised a few flags. If the city freezes all of its spending, it can pay bills.

Cutting back, however, is what Mayor Robert Smith says has to happen.

A committee is being formed that will monitor the city’s spending each month and present the spending report to council.

This all comes up after the last meeting when a motion by Councilman Mickens to put a freeze on spending was too vague and a meeting was held Thursday to clear some things up.

“How can you operate a city with a freeze on the spending of everything? There’s no way for you to operate,” said Mayor Robert Smith.

A freeze on the city’s budget basically meant a city shutdown. Thursday morning, council members voted to rescind that freeze.

But that still doesn’t fix the $881,000 deficit the city is still in. Mayor Smith says he’s talked to all department heads concerning the budget shortfall.

“We have to be more frugal in our spending,” said Mayor Smith.

So, how did we get to this point? Mayor Smith says travel expenses and overtime in the police and fire departments were the biggest expenditures.

“That was the buck as far as travel was the Mayor and the Council. More than the department heads,” said Mayor Smith.

Cutbacks on traveling has already happened. The mayor says the Mid Winter MML trip in January has already been canceled. Smith says maybe instead of sending groups of people to workshops, they can send one who can return and share with the rest of the team.

As far as overtime goes, Mayor Smith says the fire department has mandatory over time hours to meet. Other times, over time hours will just happen.

“If it’s a homicide, or an emergency of some kind, there’s going to be overtime. That’s understood,” said Mayor Smith.

To stay out of the negative, council voted to form a committee that will monitor the city’s spending budget each month.

“We’ll look at it closely from a month to month standpoint, as far as the spending and we’ll give that to, a copy of what we discussed to the council meeting,” said Mayor Smith.

That committee will be the Mayor, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer and two council members.

Mayor Smith says overtime also includes security for special events.

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