Itta Bena– Friday marks the beginning of financial recovery but the end of the police department for Itta Bena.
Thelma Collins took the Itta Bena mayor’s seat in July 2013 and went straight to work on the city’s staggering money problems. An audit in 2012 showed poorly managed accounting, unpaid bills to the Municipal Electric Association of Mississippi and no taxes paid to the IRS for the year 2012. With debt reaching nearly a million dollars and no accounting, Mayor Collins says closing the police station will be the biggest money saver. Itta Bena will save up to $400,000 a year by turning over the police department and the city rubbish run to LeFlore County. The Sheriff’s Department will take over policing the town Friday, August 1.
But what’s next? There’s a $200,000 IRS lien on Itta Bena and a debt to MEAM of half a million dollars. State auditors suggested that Mayor Collins and the City Council get the books fixed, hire a CPA and make other adjustments to get the debts reconciled. Until then, federal grant money cannot enter the city. Mayor Collins says that aside from closing the police department, sewer, water, and property taxes have been raised.
“I have faith that this is temporary,” says Mayor Collins, “we’ll get this taken care of and recover.”
Itta Bena’s written recovery plan is due Friday, August 1. We’ll have more on that as it develops.