Meridian city leaders at odds on overtime pay

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 6:51 PM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) -The city of Meridian and city council are at odds over transferred funds. In question, how that’s affecting employees’ overtime pay.

The debate began after the city council voted in February to move funding from unfilled positions from the first six months of the fiscal year, Oct. 1 to Feb. 9, out of each department’s budget and into the legislative fund, which is controlled solely by council members.

“Every year we do a budget and every year it has been funded totally and they manage the money within their budget. But what the council has done is, well, I don’t know how they phrased it, whether they moved it or took it, either way, they got the money. And the department heads don’t have the money to manage the programs they have in place to provide the services for the citizens of Meridian,” said Mayor Jimmie Smith.

Ward 5 city councilwoman Ty Bell Lindsey said the council moved funds to assure the money is being appropriately used by the departments. During a May 9th work session, Public Works Director David Hodge addressed the council on how they have exhausted its overtime budget – which is $75,000. And this week the city posted a lengthy message on its Facebook page calling out the council, saying the Meridian Police Department and, Public Works are feeling the impact of not being able to allow overtime to employees.

“Our guys love to work late, you know, the sun’s shining, it’s work time until the sun goes down. So that’s a big impact for us. We can’t get to the grass soon enough and you know our mission at public works is to drive growth and development for the city of Meridian by providing excellent infrastructure services. As many events happen in downtown Meridian, and those are always supported in part by public works employees, that’s overtime. And then any time a tree falls and crosses the road we’re out there cutting. Public works are usually first there and last to leave. We’re first responders in many cases,” said Hodge.

Mayor Jimmie Smith said because of the over $1 million transferred out of the department’s budget, department heads have repeatedly submitted requests to the council to get budget amendments put on the agenda. The goal--to get some of the funding back. Smith said, unfortunately, their requests have been denied.

“When they first said they were going to take the money, we didn’t say anything because they said we’re going to take that money and when you need it or if you need it, then we’ll give it back. And we need it. But they haven’t given it back. Apparently to me, we have over 200 years of experience in government, and we know what we’re supposed to do and they’re not listening to the administration,” said Smith.

Mayor Smith said the city brought the issue to a public platform because he wants to inform the public about what’s going on.

“If we don’t talk about it in public then the public doesn’t realize what’s going on. They would think that I’m not doing my job or that the city is not doing its job when it’s about the city council not providing funds to do the work that needs to be done,” said Smith.

Councilwoman Lindsey reacted to that post in a statement sent to News 11 saying:

As of now, Lindsey said the council will continue to ask department heads to supply needed funds.