Southaven’s department heads will be meeting with Mayor Darren Musselwhite in the coming weeks to develop a set of goals and objectives to help improve their operations for the year heading into the budget process.
Musselwhite said normally the “GO” meetings are held separately, but with the budget looming he decided to combine them with the wish lists of each department. The meetings help the city plan for what to include in the budget and what they can and can not afford.
“We will meet with each department head and start going over line-by-line each budget request,” Musselwhite said. “Then, at that point, (finance director) Edi (McIlwain) is going to sit in on the meetings and we’ll craft a base budget, that way we will bring it before the full board.”
Musselwhite said the individual departments always do an outstanding job with their budgets, but they are always looking for ways to improve operations.
“We have a great team,” Musselwhite said. “But there are always things we can also get better on. So we are committed as a team to improving our operations and making an even better city for our citizens.”
The city’s budget was $96 million last year, but Musselwhite added that revenues will be significantly higher this year and debt service payments will be lower.
Musselwhite said the budget will focus on the city’s already-implemented plan to hire more police officers, increased allocations for street resurfacing, as well as meeting as many requests as possible from all 11 city departments.
The budget will also include federal money from the American Rescue Plan. The American Rescue Plan set aside $65.1 billion in a State and Local Recovery Fund to provide direct and flexible aid to every city and county negatively impacted by the pandemic.
Southaven is expected to receive about $7 million. The federal government has not yet finalized its guidelines on how the money can be spent, but has mentioned public health costs directly related to the pandemic, expanding high speed internet access, and water infrastructure.
“There is a lot of moving parts to this as with anything to do with the federal government,” Musselwhite told the Board of Aldermen. “We are hoping to get some final answers soon about how much money is going to be available to the City of Southaven. We will be doing the initial legwork and present that very soon. Eddie and I will sit down and look at how the money can be spent and we will set up a rough draft on some priorities.”