NATCHEZ, Miss. — The City of Natchez must hire more firefighters to avoid a drop in its fire insurance rating.

The Natchez Democrat ( ) reports that the Mississippi State Rating Bureau notified the city last month that the city’s fire protection no longer warrants its current rating: five on a scale of one to 10.

When ratings drop, residents’ insurance rates can go up.

A tight city budget has prevented the hiring of all the needed firefighters so far.

Mayor Darryl Grennell plans to schedule a meeting in Jackson with representatives from the bureau and the Mississippi Insurance Department to determine steps to prevent a lower rating.

Municipalities generally have at least a year to make improvements before their ratings are dropped, said Ty Windham, the bureau’s superintendent of public protection.

“After a year, we touch base with them, and if they’re not quite there, and say, ‘Give us three more months,’ we can usually do that. If they can prove to us they are working toward it, we will work with them,” Windham said.

To keep the city’s current rating, the Natchez Fire Department needs to hire more firefighters and keep at least 18 on duty at all times.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen recently approved hiring more fIrefIghters by cutting the fIre department’s overtime budget and using that money to fund the positions.

However, under tight budget constraints and even allocating $750,000 in casino funds to balance the budget, the city was unable to budget for all the firefighters needed.

The board of aldermen asked for assistance in funding the positions from the Adams County Board of Supervisors, noting that the city fire department also covers the county. The supervisors denied the city’s request, saying the county’s budget was already set for the fiscal year that began Saturday.

Information from: The Natchez Democrat,