GULFPORT, Ms. - A budget battle is brewing in Gulfport.
Just days after the City Council approved a $54 million spending plan for next year, which was different than the mayor proposed, the city leader vetoed it.
During the announcement of the veto Monday, Mayor George Schloegel argued that closing a fire station in the southern end of the city, and eliminating several vacant positions, as well as laying off some police and firefighters, are in the best financial interest of the city’s future.
But people who live near the firehouse, a staple since the 1920s, said that’s the wrong decision.
“We just feel like the mayor has stepped a little bit out of bounds here," said Ted Riemann. "This is about public safety."
Council President Ricky Dombrowski says the public bickering is a shame.
"Personally, I am surprised,” he said, “I didn't know that it would get to this point on the budget. We worked on the budget together and came to agreement on a lot of issues."
Dombrowski also says tapping into $1 million in one-time, land-sale money won’t lead to a crisis, as the mayor claims, because more business, including a new casino near the Harbor, is headed for the tax rolls.
"We can deal with it again in the next budget,” he said, “Right now, we have a budget, it's approved, it's passed, it's gonna be funded and we just need to continue on."
But the mayor insists his way is the best way to start rebuilding the city’s reserves and get back on track with raises.
However, the community is picking the side of its first responders in this fight.
The City Council is set to meet for its regular session tomorrow afternoon where members plan to override the veto.