Jackson City Councilman Melvin Priester: “We’re not broke”

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Jackson City Council President Melvin Priester says the city isn’t broke but if an emergency occurred it would be very hard to pay for it.

“The reserve fund was intact when we approved the budget,” says Councilman Priester. The budget was approved in the fall of 2015 when the reserve fund had eight to 10 million dollars. However, that’s all changed months later.  “Our emergency reserve was basically down to nothing,” says Priester.  “If there’s any sort of tornado or we have an emergency repair we need to do then we wouldn’t be able to pay for it.”

Priester says the council asked the administration back in February is there were any major problems and were told everything was okay.

So what happened to the reserve fund, that’s now a little more than a million dollars.  “A miscalculation on how much our insurance would be,” explains Priester.
“[A] miscellaneous amount of $2.4 million dollars.”

REPORTER: That’s what I’m curious about, that seems to be the largest expense and we don’t know what that is.

“At the end of the day what’s done is done. What we have to do is figure out how to pivot,” counters Priester.

In a general fund update given to all city council member, the Interim Director of Administration, Michelle Battee-Day, wrote of that miscellaneous $2.4 million: This amount is not easily identifiable as it was absorbed as part of the overall budget.

 

Councilman Priester says because of the budget, the summer youth programs may now have to be cut. This comes just two weeks before schools dismiss for the summer.

“I’m disappointed about the callousness and the cruelty to the parents now having to wonder whether or not their child is going to have daycare or a summer job.”

Now, the council is faced with tough decisions. “We’re not broke. We are right on the razor’s edge of having expenses that exceed our income and our savings but we can turn this around,” says Priester.

According to city officials an audit report is expected to be out by Friday or Monday.

Those budget discussions will continue Monday in a special called meeting at City Hall.

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