City unabashedly OKs $650K loan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 21, 2010

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to take out a $650,000 tax anticipation loan to balance the city’s 2009-2010 fiscal year budget and then congratulated each other on a job well done.

City Clerk Donnie Holloway said the loan is needed to cover payroll and insurance expenses through December. Holloway then recounted the city’s previous tax anticipation loans. The city took out a $1.3 million tax anticipation loan to balance the 2007-2008 fiscal year budget.

In fiscal year 2008-2009, the city borrowed $500,000 and used some interest earned off a $500,000 certificate of deposit from the city’s sale of the pecan factory land to condo developers in 2006.

The city borrowed against the same CD last year to pay the contractor who did overlay work on several streets because city officials didn’t have the money to fund the roadwork that was already completed.

“In two years time, borrowing $650,000 is heading in the right direction,” Holloway said. “I think we are doing a good job housekeeping and making sure we are on the right track, and I commend (the aldermen) for two years of getting us back on track in the right direction.”

After a pregnant pause, Alderman Mark Fortenbery made the motion to approve the loan. Alderman Bob Pollard seconded the motion.

Mayor Jake Middleton said the aldermen should not be ashamed of their decision.

“I want this board to feel proud of what they’ve done in two years,” Middleton said. “We have two years left in this administration. I want the city to be flush by the end of this administration, and I think we’re going to make it.

“We came into office at the worst time this country has ever seen and we held our own. There’s nothing wrong with borrowing money. We’re a business just like any other business in the city, county or country. It’s not a sin to do what we’re doing.”

Middleton said the city will retire a bond payment of $380,000 next year, and will likely experience increased revenues from new businesses taking stake inside the city limits.

“If we had (retired the bond) this year, (Holloway) would be asking to borrow $250,000,” Middleton said.

Alderman Dan Dillard, chairman of the city’s finance committee, agrees the city has made significant progress this fiscal year. However, he challenged Middleton and Holloway to be more cognizant of revenues and expenditures.

“You’re the chief operating officer. You’re doing a good job, you’re on top of it, but keep your pencils sharpened,” Dillard said.

“We’re going to have to look at the budgeting process and say, ‘This is a realistic number that you’re going to produce.’ It’s your responsibility to say this is all the damn tree will bear, and you’re going to have to cut and continue to look for ways to be more efficient.”