The Chief Financial Officer works with directors, chiefs and the City Council to prepare budgets, tax levies and financial documents. The CFO is responsible for revenue projections for all funds, including water and sewer and works on all city debt issues, such as bonds, leases and notes. Other duties of the CFO include working with auditors during the city’s annual audit report, meeting with council members and directors to amend budgets and working with the Department of Administration in calculating the tax levy for the city, library and school district.
The City of Hattiesburg experienced several changes in leadership in 2014, one of those being in the Administrative department. Ms. Connie Everett retired from her position as Chief Financial Officer after more than 30 years of public service. Upon Ms. Everett’s retirement, Ms. Sharon Waits was named as her successor to the position of Chief Financial Officer. Ms. Waits holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a Major in Accounting from the University of Southern Mississippi, and earned her Masters of Business Administration degree from William Carey University. Ms. Waits has more than 20 years of experience in the accounting field in several industries including banking, construction, and healthcare.
In spite of a difficult economic climate, the City has continued to make progress on long-term improvements to the water and sewer infrastructure. The City issued $12.5 million in bonds in 2012 to finance Phase I of the Comprehensive Water and Sewer Investment Project. This project addresses critical repairs and improvements to the water and sewer systems throughout the City and will be carried out in multiple phases. The first phase of this project included new fire supply lines along Highway 98 West, supported by a new 500,000 gallon water tank, and a new booster station along the same corridor. Also included in this phase of the project were sewer repairs in various neighborhoods around the city, including Providence, Cedar, and Corrine streets, Weathersby Road, Mobile and Bouie Street areas, and several other sites. These initial projects were wrapped up in 2014, and the design process began for Phase II of the project. In December 2013, the City issued an additional $28 million in bonds to finance the second phase of the project. Bids were solicited for the first projects of Phase II in late 2014 and construction is currently underway.
2014 also saw the construction of a pretreatment facility at USA Yeast to process the effluent from their yeast production process. This pretreatment facility is the result of years of negotiations on how best to treat the waste being produced by USA Yeast’s operations. By working together with the Mississippi Development Authority, the City was able to secure a $5 million grant to help pay for this project. The balance of the cost was provided by USA Yeast. This new facility began testing in late 2014 and will be operational in 2015.
Wastewater treatment is a major concern for Hattiesburg’s future. Ever tightening regulations on what enters our rivers and waterways require us to reevaluate our current processes and facilities. The City is working diligently to improve aging infrastructure. At the same time, the City is negotiating with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to find an equitable solution to the wastewater treatment needs that also meet standards required by these agencies. Because any solution is going to require major capital investments, the City is exploring options on how to finance future changes to its wastewater treatment facilities.
The City also partnered with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to complete several drainage improvement projects around town. The banks of Gordon Creek were stabilized near the VFW post and the Pine Street Parking Garage, and another project was completed along J. Ed Turner Drive near Jackson Road. NRCS contributed 75% of the cost of these projects. The City also received funding from Pat Harrison Waterway District to make improvements along Gordon Creek near Town Square Park, including a pedestrian bridge providing access to pathways on either side of the creek. Construction on Phase II of this project is anticipated to begin in 2016.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration provided funding which allowed the City to complete two major street improvement projects—the repaving and renovation of Hardy Street between 21st and 25th Streets, and Phase I of the 4th Street Expansion project. The City has also committed to providing at least $1 million to street paving in the 2015 fiscal year. This commitment was made possible by reducing expenses in operating and capital spending budgets, and maximizing savings whenever possible.
The revenue generated from sales and ad valorem taxes provide the funds for the daily operation of the City. Revenues from sales tax and ad valorem tax collections have remained consistent over recent years. The 2014 sales tax collections rose to $21.5 million, a 1.1 % increase over 2013 collections of $21.3 million. Similarly, ad valorem revenue increased to $12.8 million in 2014 for the general fund, which is a 3.4% increase over 2013 collections of $12.3 million. This steady growth gives the City of Hattiesburg a stable base to expand on during the planning of the next budget year.
Audited Financial Reports
Audited Water & Sewer Financial Reports