Utility customers in Durant now have one less day during the week to pay for their electric bill at city hall.
In an effort to curb spending the City of Durant has implemented furlough days for city employees.
"This affects the administrative office," said Durant Mayor Robert Johnson. "We're closing down on Wednesdays."
Depts. work half day
"The light and sewer department and the street department, they're (closed) Wednesdays half a day and Fridays half a day. That was so we could avoid not having any (workers) in case we have an emergency."
With tax revenues trickling into the city coffers, steps were taken to cut back expenditures while maintaining jobs.
"The bottom line is the cost of operation was exceeding the amount of income the city was receiving," Johnson said.
"That could be attributed to a number of factors."
Loss of revenue
The loss of industries, tax paying industries, the loss of downtown businesses, personal individuals walking away from their property and not paying property taxes and not selling that property were it could be a part of that tax base."
"When we look at loss of business, the only contributor that we lost during this administration was Irby's Building Supply," Johnson said.
Irby's went out of business in May of last year.
"Anything else was gone before we took office, such as GNC and Delta Steel," said Johnson. "That's a big portion of your revenue. They purchase utilities and the ad valorem taxes they had to pay."
"Some of the employees were extremely upset with that idea. I tried to explain to them, furloughing basically means everybody still has a job, still have benefits."
Started in November
The current furlough time was implemented in November.
"It's going to be with us for a period of time I imagine," Johnson said.
Two Durant aldermen, Jim Ferguson of Ward 5 and Bo Patterson of Ward 2, have forfeited all or part of their city salaries to apply towards the unpaid means balance.
So far, Durant has had an estimated savings of $20,000 according to Durant City Clerk Ursula Holly.
"One of the things I noticed in a conversation with the Mayor of Lexington, McCrory, approximately September 1, we received a tax check for approximately $90,000, the next day or so by law we were issuing (Durant Public Schools) their portion of the taxes which is in excess of $60,000."
Johnson added that the city of Lexington was awarded $130,000 in taxes and was able to retain the whole amount.
"We looked at that $90,000 to that $60,00 on that one issue, had we been able to keep it, it would have gone a long way for the city as far as providing equipment, supplies, services and salaries."
"We've never really fully recovered from the theft of money. The restitutions were never completed," Johnson said.
Johnson referred to the embezzlement of city funds by city employees and an elected official between 2000 and 2003 by former mayor Eddie Logan, former deputy clerk McShelle Williams and former city clerk Rosie Hogsett Mitchell.
Restitution was ordered to be paid by Williams included in the amount of $58,036.03 by then Mississippi State Auditor Phil Bryant.
"At the time that the (embezzlement) was discovered and the people were fired or arrested, they brought Linda McDonald on as clerk. She announced at that first board meeting that the city was approximately $350,000 behind paying MEAM."
"That's nothing new."
Electricity is provided to Durant through Municipal Energy Agency of Mississippi based in Greenwood.
"In the last couple of months we have strived to pay whatever the balance was for that month and something on the past due."
"All of this has put us in a bad operational bind," Johnson said.
Furlough time for the police department is being implemented at random so that no officers will be off the streets.
"When you're not out there for those four hours, we have very few vehicles running, burning gasoline."
"Our bills run pretty high," Johnson said.