- Associated Press - Saturday, September 26, 2015

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (AP) - The Bay St. Louis City Council has passed a budget on its fourth try.

The Sun Herald (https://bit.ly/1LU64yT) reports the vote came Friday, after three times previously rejecting budgets proposed by Mayor Les Fillingame.

The city has been struggling to pay its bills for years, but a recent audit deepened questions about Bay St. Louis finances. Fillingame denies that the preliminary audit findings were as bad as they look, but Councilman Mike Favre says unpaid bills keep popping up.

“Every time we go into a meeting,” he said, “we find something new that hasn’t been paid.”

Council members believe the city will need as much as $615,000 this year to reconcile unpaid bills or dedicated accounts that the city drained earlier to pay unpaid bills. That includes $300,000 that council members agreed to borrow from a reserve account to pay bills in the budget year beginning Thursday.

In August, the council discovered the city has spent all or part of $315,000 restricted by the U.S. Department of Justice to funding certain police expenses. It was required to be kept separate, but in 2009 the city rolled the money into the general fund.

The budget stalemate came on the heels of a preliminary audit that contained 15 findings of noncompliance with state and federal regulations as well as the city’s own ordinances.

The audit said the administration presented the council with 2013-14 budget that contained more than $600,000 in miscalculations.

In mid-January, Bay businessman Rod Ward left the seven-member municipal harbor commission after airing his frustrations over an unapproved $19,807 disbursement the city made from the municipal harbor fund.

“I feel that eventually we will all be embarrassed in a public financial disaster that is not in our control,” Ward said in his resignation letter.

Fillingame does not believe the city is in a crisis and said many of the problems are easy fixes.


Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com

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