The City of Wiggins will soon begin preparing a budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, but time is winding down, and the most recent report was only updated as far as April 2022.
At the Board of Aldermen meeting on Tuesday, June 7, the report presented little information to prepare elected officials.
Alderpersons review and vote on claims dockets and regular expenses every two weeks at public meetings, but the budget report shows board members how much they have left to spend until the end of the year or how much they are over budget compared to last year.
The budget report is meant to encompass all revenue and expenses for the city’s general fund and each department. However, the current report is still lacking information, and what it does list is two months behind.
Ward 3 Alderman Damian McKay pointed out that some lines on the report were still not making sense and gave him no indication of where the city stands financially.
“By looking at this...we started the year with a $0 cash balance,” McKay said.
McKay highlighted several confusing lines and asked why the report was not fixed.
The report listed the city budgeted $4,000 for office supplies and had already spent $11,301 two months ago, meaning the city was 282 percent over budget for that line item.
The budget also reported the city was 364 percent over budget for professional fees. The city budgeted $15,000 but reportedly has already spent an additional $39,619 on professional fees.
City officials have explained that past reports are inaccurate because of software issues from switching from BBI Accounting to Delta Computer Systems and back to BBI Accounting in the past years.
Mayor Darrell Berry said in April that city employees over bookkeeping had to update expenses and revenue manually, which has caused delays.
Berry said the city’s former accounting software company refused to turn over data to BBI Accounting when the city switched, which put the city behind.
City finances go through City Clerk Johnette Cook’s office. The city has also paid retired city clerk Twylla Grant, who lives in Pearl, Mississippi, no less than $1,000 in the past year to reconcile financial statements.
Ward 2 Alderman Ron Dyal, the acting mayor at the most recent meeting, said the report was getting better and easier to read each time.
While the budget report has steadily improved, McKay said it is not good enough.
McKay pointed out that the professional fees for the city’s water and sewer were more than 380 percent over budget, according to the report.
The city originally budgeted $20,000 for the department’s professional fees, and the report indicated the actual expenses were $456,239 over budget.
“Since I have been elected, I have been asking for financial statements, and I have been asking to get these right,” McKay said. “These (monthly reports) are not right, and it is pathetic that we sit around and we don’t do anything about it. That is why I am asking this in a public meeting.”
Other city officials say they expect the reports to be up to date when the board begins budget workshops in July.
As for the expenses, Mayor Berry said the budget has always had some deviations from expected costs.
He said several key expenses like fuel had risen drastically in cost.
“When you budget, you can’t get everything down to an exact science,” Berry said. “Some things we are over budget on, but we will be under budget on other things.”
Berry said the board would use yearly expenses from the last three years or more and compare them to current costs to determine budget figures for the following year.
The Stone County Enterprise filed a public records request with the city clerk on Friday, June 10, but no records have been produced as of Monday evening.
The Enterprise requested correspondence between the city and BBI Accounting, Delta Computer Systems, and Twylla Grant. This newspaper also requested the contracts between the city and entities responsible for providing up-to-date financials.
The city has two weeks from the request to respond.