Ask the candidates
Bill McBride: This is the first indication that anyone is actually proposing construction of two new schools. Hopefully, this new proposal will be explained completely and truthfully to the community before any final decision is made.
I do agree as to the need of new schools, but until the Meridian Public School District officials make a FULL disclosure, i.e., size, location, cost, no intelligent decision can be made. After such factual information is available to all citizens of the school district, the school officials advocating two new school buildings would also have to determine the source of funding, again by bringing it to the public.
John Robert Smith: New schools were proposed in the bond issues that were defeated. Since then, I have appointed two new members to the school board, and the board has not made any determination as to how to move forward with the infrastructure needs of the schools.
The Grow Meridian Team addressed this issue and I'm in the process of appointing a member of the city staff and a council member to work with the school board on this issue.
Once priorities are set, funding could possibly come from refinancing some existing school district debt but, more than likely, a bond issue substantially smaller than the ones defeated would need to be approved.
Q: Meridian currently has a budget shortfall of some $200,000. What specific steps would you take to eliminate the shortfall and ensure that adequate funding exists to operate city government in the future?
Charlie Haynes: As your new mayor I would initiate an immediate review of every expenditure in every department of the city to target and correct irresponsible spending.
This would be a line by line review by every department throughout city government. All unnecessary and or irresponsible expenditures would be addressed and immediately eliminated. My main focus will be to prioritize our expenditures in such a way that basic city services would be provided that would meet ALL the citizens' expectations and not just a few and that special interest/pet projects would be moved substantially down the list of financial priority.
William Hugh Johnson: Meridian's economic decline in recent years, along with the irresponsible budget projection of the Smith administration have led to budget shortfalls.
Use of TIF bond debt to fund retail relocations like the Wal-Mart move, mean that even if retail sales do recover, additional money will not flow to the general fund for years.
Our alternatives are either to raise taxes on our people or stop wasting taxpayer money on non-vital city government positions and projects.
Meridian can't afford to raise taxes again. As mayor I will eliminate useless city hall positions, curtail travel, and address gasoline prices.
Bill McBride: Recommend to rescind the proposed pay increase for the mayor and city council. Curtail use of non-emergency vehicles. Non-essential positions to remain vacate until revenues warrant hiring. Eliminate subsidizing enterprise funds which take needed funds from essential operational needs. Curtail the number plus use of car/cell telephones. Determine other non-essential expenses which help to alleviate the shortfall without sacrificing city services.
A thorough and comprehensive review of spending in all departments to ensure only essential needs are met. A realistic budget reflecting the needs of the citizens and eliminating the high profile projects which contribute very little, if any, to growing this area is essential to good fiscal responsibility.
John Robert Smith: We have already taken steps to readjust the budget by freezing some expenditures, such as new employees, travel, training and special projects without specific authority from the administration.
The entire nation is experiencing an economic downturn, so Meridian's situation is hardly unique.
Budgets, while based on reasoned estimates, are still only estimates and must always be flexible. One solution we will not implement is to lay off any employees, an action that was taken during similar downturn under the administration of a former mayor.