Since 2013, Clinton has grown significantly with the addition of Continental Tire, Milwaukee Tool, E3, Taylor Machinery, and Gulf Relay bringing hundreds of new high-paying jobs and prestige to Clinton. Coupled with the growth of long-time businesses McNeely Plastics, Gulf State Canners, Birdsong Construction, and Mid-State Welding our City is positioned with companies operating at the international, national, regional, and local levels.
No longer does a child born and educated in Clinton need to leave Clinton to find a job. Now, these international, national, and regional companies can employ our high school, college, and graduate level students in this City or send them throughout the nation or world with high-paying jobs and great opportunities.
Retail growth continues and this next FY will see the start of a 50-acre business/retail park at the intersection of Hwy 80 and Springridge Road. The visibility and location of this development will be a “game-changing” event in Clinton. Thanks to MC, Ben Walker, and Jeff Speed for understanding the importance aesthetics play in the project and for their vision of what this City can be.
In the past decade, our City grew from 24,600 to 28,100. People believe in the direction of this City and are willing to invest their money and children’s future in Clinton.
All this has led to growth in our budget. The FY 2022 budget totals $20,569,473, the FY 2021 budget totaled $18,322,188, a growth of $2,247,285. Of note, my first budget in FY 2014 totaled $14,274,551, a growth vs. FY22, of $6,294,922.
Over the next year, the City will hold community meetings to talk about the best use of the 84 acres acquired by the City. It is important that we maximize this property as a regional draw, as well as enhance the quality of life of our citizens.
Additionally, we will meet throughout the year with the community to determine what you want to see in quality-of-life improvements with the 2% sales restaurant tax money within our existing parks.
The 84 acres and the 2% money will be a wonderful opportunity to talk honestly about where we are and where we need to go to improve our City. I look forward to a robust conversation to build the best park system possible.
For years some in Clinton have doubted these things were possible. Those doubters are being proved wrong.
We are here to talk about the budget so, let’s get to it. This budget includes;
1. A 3% raise for all employees
2. Funds the 84 acres study
3. Buys a generator for fire station number 1, replacing the non-working 1975 model
4. Hires EKS Tennis Company to run the tennis courts
5. Increases building maintenance to $60,000
6. Adds five police cars, four pickup trucks, and one fire truck
7. Continues to move the salaries currently paid by the tourism tax money to the general fund. This transfer will significantly increase the amount of money spent to promote our City.
8. This budget moves the Train Depot management from the Communications Department, where this Board placed it last year (against my objection), back to Main Street where it belongs. Last year’s action caused the Train Depot person to leave and set this part of our City back years. Now there is a logical path to develop someone as a future Main Street Director while gaining management experience with the Train Depot activities.
9. The water/sewer portion of this budget will fund the start of the Lovette Treatment Plant expansion with a completion date in late 2023. This is the first step in the Big Black River project and assures the city’s growth through 2030.
This left $495,000 to distribute with other projects. For reference, last year we had $320,000 remaining for distribution. This is further proof that your City budget is healthy and growing. This growth allows us to meet both expected and unexpected budget challenges.
A major issue involving public safety salaries developed affecting the budget. The Fire Chief, Police Chief, and Public Works Director informed me that other cities throughout the state were giving very large pay increases. This was verified by two different sources; the current Stennis Institute Study and a survey done by our Department Heads with cities throughout the state.
These increases were large enough to allow better financial opportunities to our officers, firefighters, and Public Works employees than Clinton was offering while allowing them to live in Clinton. As a matter of fact, when looking at the range of numbers, Clinton salaries were at the bottom when this time last year we were near the top.
In addition, the Capitol Police are growing a department from scratch, adding 120 new officers over the next two years. All state law enforcement agencies received significant increases via state funding. Jackson, Southaven, Oxford, Gulfport, Meridian, and other Metro area cities are increasing pay significantly while adding officers.
Our public safety departments are losing trained personnel rapidly. The Fire Department lost 10 firefighters over the last 12 months. Public Works lost 7 employees over the last 10 months. The Police Department lost 11 officers in the last 4 months. All because of higher pay opportunities within their fields. To further clarify, these numbers are in addition to retirements or career changes.
In order to meet the challenge, we needed to find $1.1 million new dollars for police and fire with an additional $289,000 for Public Works. Many alternative ideas were talked about and thoroughly hashed out. The commitment of the Board to meet this challenge never wavered. This is what the Board decided to do;
1. Use the $495,000 mentioned earlier
2. Reduce police slotting from 66 to 62, generating $251,000
3. Take $200,000 from the paving budget, reducing it from $1.4 million to 1.2 million.
4. Many other misc. reductions totaling $200,000
The $289,000 needed for Public Works came from the Water/Sewer Fund.
So, what does all this mean? Last year’s budget increases in salary placed us in the upper salary levels with police recruits starting at $27,500. To meet and exceed the increases across the state this year, the starting salary for a Clinton police recruit is now $42,000. Similar increases were made for other positions. For example, a patrolman with less than 4 years’ service increased from $33,500 to $44,000. A Sergeant salary was $45,000 and now ranges from $54,000 - $58,000. A lieutenant salary increases from $54,000 to a range of $62,000 - $65,000. And a Captain’s salary increases from $62,500 to a range of $70,000 - $74,000.
The same is true for our firefighters. A certified firefighter salary today is $33,500 and increases to a range from $40,880 - $43,370. A driver/operator/Lt increases from $37,033 to a range of $43,800 - $49,290. A Captain increases from $43,000 to a range of $52,560 - $59,159. A Deputy Chief increases from $50,512 to a range of $67,160 - $73,000.
The Increase in PW of $289,000 will see similar increases in salary.
All Alderman and I had pains making the cuts required to meet the salary increase goal. There are two areas of reduction that I find particularly painful.
1. I am not happy that 4 police slots were cut. The argument that we have never been higher than 62 officers ignores the fact that at one time we had only 35 officers. That started to change in 2013 as officers were added each year and until we got to 62 officers. This proves that the City can achieve higher numbers and should not settle for less.
2. I am also not pleased that paving was cut. In 2013 I came into office with no money in the paving budget and after 10 years was on the way to meeting my $1.6 million per year goal by the end of this term. But when I look at other cities in the metro and their paving budgets - $750,000, $500,000, and $300,000 – we are still ahead of their efforts.
I know for a fact the Aldermen have areas they found painful in this process. But they never wavered from meeting the challenge the salary increases presented.
I want to take a minute and caution the Board on a few things they plan to do in this budget. First, borrowing money from the water/sewer budget to fund a study of the ditches in the City. While their hearts are in the right place, the $110,000 being borrowed needs to be paid back over 5 years, reducing future General Fund expenditure capabilities. Once the study is complete (FY 2023), your next task is to raise the many millions of dollars required in the end of this term. Then you will face the issue of doing work on private property. Because this effort will go into the next term of office, there is no guarantee the next Board will agree and continue. When complete, the City would own the ditches and be responsible for the upkeep forever as they begin deteriorating again - forcing future boards to absorb huge costs in maintenance.
Secondly, the City is waiting for a few easements to come in, triggering the borrowing of $1,000,000 from the water/sewer fund. This issue will require at payback of $100,000 per year over 10 years.
I’ll use this year’s budget to illustrate the negative effect of borrowing. Keeping in mind the salary issue talked above, I left $495,000 for the BoA to spend this year and all of that was used to reach the $1.1 million salary goal. Also, $289,000 from the water/sewer fund was used for the Public Works salary increases. After borrowing the $110,000 and the $1,000,000 from Water/Sewer the $495,000 would be decreased by $120,000 (from $495,000 to $375,000) over the next 5 years. After that, it would be decreased by $100,000 (from $495,000 to $395,000) for 5 additional years to pay back both loans.
If this salary issue or another issue as serious occurs in the next ten years; How many more police slots would be lost? How much more would you reduce paving? How much more in “other sources” would be needed to cover a sizable need?
Neither of these projects is allowable as a direct expenditure from the water/sewer fund and this fund should not be used as a bank. In 2014 the $1,000,000 taken to save that budget was declared surplus, and taken from water/sewer – it was not borrowed. The water/sewer fund is not that strong now, there is not a surplus.
No one currently serving on this Board was an Alderman for the FY 2014 budget so you have no idea how far we have come in stabilizing and then getting ahead of the budget. But the use of the water/sewer surplus was not enough and we had to raise taxes in the FY 2015 budget. Alderman Martin was there for that – voting against that budget.
Both issues should be addressed with grants, and we continue to look for grants that will meet these needs. Logically, even borrowing the 20% match for both projects from water/sewer is better than borrowing $1,120,000.
1. There is a reduction of $289,000 for Public Works salaries that is a reoccurring expense.
2. We know we have an upcoming need with a sewer issue that will require driving 19 pilings to support a creek bank and other construction required to save that sewer line. That implies a huge investment of an undetermined amount.
3. We know we have a $5.5 million investment in the Lovett Lagoon expansion as part of the Big Black River project.
4. The $495,000 is now in the salary line item because it is a reoccurring expense. Since that money will not be available next year, they are banking that the City growth will be high enough to cover the $120,000 required to pay the first year (of 10 years) of the borrowed money and still take care of the new needs of the City.
Hopefully, there will be no other sewer needs or the cost of the projects mentioned above will not further escalate. If so, the water/sewer fund could run short. We must not place ourselves in the position of chasing the water and sewer budget. In other words, deciding what to cut or what to sell or needing a tax increase in order to balance.
While the Board and I disagree on the borrowing aspect of the water/sewer budget, the general fund budget remains robust and growing. The Board worked hard and I can assure you that every decision made in this budget was done after much - and at times intense - discussion. The paramount goal of addressing the salary issue was met with significant success. It is our hope that the new salary structure will stop our employees from leaving Clinton for other positions at the city or state level.
The Police Department has worked hard to make Clinton the third safest City in the state. The Fire Department has worked hard to reduce and maintain a level 4 fire rating. Public Works is always available, despite the cold, heat, rain, or other environmental discomforts, to keep our water/sewer and infrastructure in excellent operating order.
Because of these efforts, we can free ourselves from basic city service worries and enjoy the Parks/Recreation, MainStreet, and Visitor Center activities available to us. Thanks to all of you for making Clinton a better place.
With the problems going on in other cities with respect to water/sewer and infrastructure, I would be remiss if I did not remind you that the Clinton government has always maintained these areas to the highest degree possible. Past Mayors Aultman, Smith, Howell, and even further back have never failed to give the utmost attention to these vital areas of our community’s existence. Today’s efforts to construct the $97,000,000 Big Black River project – taking care of Clinton’s sewer need through 2080 - is simply an extension of what past Mayors have done towards vital improvements with the technology available during their time in office.
Finally, I want to thank the citizens for your active interest in our community. Your volunteer work in our churches, youth sports, Main Street activities, the Visitor Center, civic organizations, your neighborhoods, with the elderly and so many other areas set our community apart from so many others.
Now we move forward into another successful year.
Together We Can Do Anything