RIDGELAND — A $23 million budget was presented for fiscal 2018, but the city is dipping into reserves again, which concerns one alderman.

No members of the public made comments Tuesday night on the 27-page proposed budget during the public hearing, although Alderman-at-Large D.I. Smith expressed his dissatisfaction with a budget he felt could use further trimming.

The budget ultimately passed 4-1 with Smith voting no and Ward 2 Alderman Chuck Gautier and Ward 4 Alderman Brian Ramsey absent. Ramsey arrived later in the evening.

The city has for several years operated with a deficit, spending cash reserves to avoid increasing millage, which has been the same for 28 years.

“I am very concerned about this budget,” Smith said.

He mentioned that he did not like that the city was continuing to spend more than they were bringing in. The budget estimates $22,273,394 in total revenues and has $23,451,621 budgeted in total expenditures.

That’s down from last year’s expenditures, which were estimated at $25,301,401 on $22,924,097 in total revenue.

Smith said his concern was with the “financial and commercial environment” of the city. He said that online retail and attractive business opportunities in the city of Madison and Rankin County have contributed to fractions slowly but surely shaving off of the money the city brought in on sales taxes.

“We have seen small decreases every month for a while now,” Smith said. “I am concerned about this deficit budget and do not see how sales tax can grow us out.”

The budget includes a one percent pay raise for city employees, on top of a pay raise given last year. The budget also includes several large capitol projects. Smith suggested the city was using “make-believe money” to make the budget work.

“I see all of this leading to a future tax increase and potentially layoffs for city employees,” Smith said.

During the meeting, Mayor Gene F. McGee addressed Smith’s concerns saying that the city needed to focus on further economic growth.

After the meeting McGee expanded on his thoughts on the budget.

“I think we have a very good budget that our city officials and department heads worked very hard to put together and were frugal during the entire process,” McGee said. “I understand the concerns that were brought forward, but I think we are going to see good things happen as Ridgeland continues to move forward.”

The stated balance at the beginning of the year for the general fund will be $14,467,316. The end balance is estimated at $14,201,988. The percentage of end of year balance over total expenditures 60.56 is percent. Last year, concern was raised over a budget that hovered just over 48 percent, close to their hard floor of 45 percent.

The Police Department had the largest departmental budget at $6,652,368 followed by Public Works at $4,878,876.

City officials unanimously voted to approve a tax levy of 20.03 mills, of which 11.27 is allocated to the general fund and the remaining 8.76 to the debt service fund. Ridgeland has the lowest millage in Madison County.

“I am proud to say that we have had the same millage for the past 28 years,” McGee said.