With the Meridian Police Department abiding by Southern Poverty Law Center guidelines, more money will go towards salaries in parks and recreation department .
The guidelines say that citizens could not be jailed for failing to pay fines. They were enforced after the Meridian City Council accepted a consent decree from the SPLC and MacArthur Justice Center in April, staving risk of legal action.
$120,000 will be moved from the police department’s professional services fund—which covers housing those inmates—to parks and recreation salaries. The change comes after an amendment to the 2019 budget that was approved by the city council at a meeting Tuesday.
The parks and recreation department will also cut supplies costs by $12,000 and machinery and equipment costs by $18,000, making room for another $30,000 for salaries.
The salary bump will allow for grounds maintenance for the rest of the year, said Public Safety Director Doug Stephens, as well as continued activities at the Velma Young Pool and Meridian Activity Center, among other city properties.
After the city fired Parks and Recreation Director Kelvin McGruder last year, Stephens has filled in as a temporary “conduit” between the city council and parks and recreation, he said.
After recent resignations in that department, the city will need to hire two new employees within the next two months, Stephens said.
“Parks and Recreation took a heavy cut last year for part-time and full-time salaries,” he said.
The department will get by on current equipment the rest of the year “with the prayer that nothing major happens.”
“[City of Meridian Police] Chief Dubose was generous,” added Stephens. “What you see here is the administration and department heads working together, as a whole, to make sure everything gets accomplished.”
Costs from the professional services fund previously were around $28,000 a month, Dubose said. Now they are closer to $10,000 or $15,000.
The transfer was proposed during a Monday city staff meeting, Dubose said.
“I didn’t have any problem with it," Dubose said. "It would have gone back to the general fund anyway. It’s all city, taxpayer money.”
The council will finalize its 2020 fiscal year budget by the end of September.