Mayor’s office to receive 15% cut as part of Jackson’s 2024 budget

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba(WLBT)
Published: Sep. 1, 2023 at 2:24 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson residents won’t be asked to pay more taxes to fund next year’s budget.

However, the mayor will be expected to operate with a 15 percent year-over-year budget decrease.

At a special meeting on Thursday, the council voted on resolutions to maintain the current millage rate for the Jackson/Hinds Library System and Jackson Public School District for the 2024 fiscal year, and acknowledged that no additional tax increases for the city would be on the table.

“Let the record reflect there is no proposed millage increase,” Council President Aaron Banks said.

Homeowners in Jackson pay 63.03 mills in property taxes to the city and 84.81 mills in property taxes to the Jackson school district. The mayor had proposed a two-mill increase to help cover the city’s expenses next year, but the council had several straw polls saying they would not support it.

The votes came following a short public hearing on Thursday. No one spoke for or against them.

At a finance committee meeting the same day, the council agreed to decrease the mayor’s budget by approximately $260,000 to fund additional judges in Jackson Municipal Court, an additional public defender, and an additional deputy city attorney to assist the city’s Department of Planning and Development.

Prior to the cut, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba had proposed an office budget of around $1.76 million.

Lumumba Chief of Staff Safiya Omari “strenuously” objected to the decision, saying, “The mayor is the chief executive of the city. If you don’t allow him to have the resources to do his job, how do you expect him to do it effectively?”

Omari also asked why the council insisted on cutting the mayor’s budget when they could have funded those expenses in other ways.

Chief Financial Officer Fidelis Malembeka, for instance, told the council the attorney for planning could be funded from revenues generated by the city’s new rental registry.

Jackson re-established its rental registration program earlier this year. The program requires all rental housing units in the city to be registered, in part, to ensure landlords better maintain the properties.

Customers must pay $50 a year to appear on the register. Those funds go back into the Planning Department to fund the program.

According to the Northside Sun, nearly 4,500 registration applications had been submitted as of August 17.

“My understanding was that the position will be supporting planning, and so the initial discussions we had was to fund it through the revenue generated through the renter registry,” Malembeka said. “And in Ms. Dotson’s presentation, that was part of her recommendation.”

Dotson is Chloe Dotson, the director of planning and development. She made her budget recommendations to the council in August.

“I just think that her revenue should be her revenue, to just kind of be creative and explorative and create more,” Banks said. “And I think she might need to hire even more code enforcement officers.”

Other highlights of next year’s budget include pay raises for firefighters and police officers. Police Chief Joseph Wade and Fire Chief Willie Owens have both agreed to cut funding for unfilled positions to fund pay raises.

The budget also includes funding to reintroduce park rangers and to install new cameras at several city parks.

The council is slated to adopt the budget a meeting on September 7. The budget will go into effect on October 1.

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