Gulfport council OKs furloughs, adds fees

City tries to cut budget deficit

GULFPORT

 To reduce a budget deficit, the Gulfport City Council approved three-day furloughs for most employees, and also reinstituted or added fees residents will have to pay for some services.

Council members voted 5-2 Tuesday to approve the furloughs recommended by Mayor George Schloegel. They have heard from employees who support the furloughs, some council members said, because the employees know the city needs to cut spending.

“They’re all ready to do it,” Council president Ricky Dombrowski said. Council members Ella Holmes-Hines and Kenneth “Truck” Casey opposed the furloughs because they include police officers and Fire Department employees, although not those who patrol the streets or fight fires.

The council also suspended longevity pay and extra money offered to employees who further their educations. Council members said they hope to reinstate the pay when the city is in better financial shape because they are good employment incentives.

The council also reinstated a $30 base fee for building permits, which was suspended after Katrina. Fees for graves in city cemeteries will increase from $300 to $500. Fees for opening, closing and maintaining graves will go from $150 to $500, weekdays, and from $200 to $625 for Saturdays.

Additional fees also will apply in Municipal Court.

Mayor George Schloegel said he is pleased the council has supported plans to curb spending and generate revenue. He said he’s evaluating other measures, which could include fees for emergency responses such as medical calls, hazardous material spills, fires and special rescues.

The City Council also:

n Turned over the Veterans Affairs property on U.S. 90 to the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission and approved a consulting team to assist with soliciting and evaluating development offers for the land, with a fee of up to $100,000 to be covered by developers selected.

n Agreed to pay $60,000 to a lobbying firm with Gulfport offices, Dutko Worldwide, to seek economic development funds from Washington.

By ANITA LEE

calee@sunherald.com

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