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Your Money, My Money, His Money

Joe McCraney (left, gesturing), a governmental specialist with North Central Planning Development District who assists the county in the budget process, goes over figures with (clockwise from top) Chancery Clerk Amy McMinn and Supervisors George Suggs, Butch Surrette, Bubba Tillman, Amos Sims, and Tommy Vaughan.

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – The spiraling cost of fuel reared its ugly head at Tuesday’s budget meeting held by supervisors.

    “Asphalt has actually doubled this year,” Supervisor Butch Surrette said Tuesday, opening up the issue.

    “Diesel fuel has gone from $2.50 to $4.40-something. To continue to maintain roads out of our road funds, I think we are going to have to put some money in there to take care of it,” Surrette said, pitching a plan to add to the current amount budgeted in the coming year to maintain the roads in each District.

    “There is a lot of ways you can go about it,” he added.

    “There ain’t but two ways to do it,” Supervisor Tommy Vaughn answered.

    At issue, a $2.4 million surplus in the county’s general fund – sitting, unused. The money has been earmarked for capital improvements, specifically for offsetting the expense of a new jail.

    Surrette asked Joe McCraney, a governmental specialist with North Central Planning Development District who assists the county in the budget process, to outline potential options.

    Using the general fund surplus to offset a millage increase for a road fund levy, or an outright increase in the road fund levy were two options defined by McRaney in the meeting.

    “You got a couple of different options,” McCraney explained.

    “The option of raising the millage rate and putting the money in each road fund increases what we have fought tirelessly for the last four years to do, and that is to reduce taxes,” Supervisor Tommy Vaughn told the board.

    “To me, that is not acceptable. Taking it out of the general fund, reducing the general fund millage and raising the road fund millage depletes your general fund and defeats what we have done for the last four years to build a $2.4 million surplus to take care of the jail,” Vaughn continued.

    “I don’t need no money… I don’t think anyone else on this board needs any,” Vaughn added.

    “I need some,” Supervisor George Suggs answered.

    “I think you do to, George,” Surrette replied.

    “Butch, do you need some?” Vaughn asked.

    “I think so,” Surrette answered.

    “You got a $250,000 road bond, what are you going to do with it?” Vaughn answered.

    “That is above and beyond anything I am going to do with my road maintenance money… That is two different things,” Surrette answered.

    “I have a problem when we are all working off of the same amount of money and you don’t have enough money to maintain…” Vaughn added.

    “We don’t all work off the same amount of money, now,” Surrette answered.

    “All bull,” Vaughn answered.

    “All no. We just will go ahead and discuss that right now,” Surrette replied.

    “Well, that’s get it out of the way. If I have more money it is because I am drawing interest because we have accumulated $600,000 while building roads without floating bonds and maintaining the roads. Bubba Tillman is doing the same thing. And Amos Sims,” Vaughn continued.

    I am just going to lay it out there the way it is. You are getting $30,000 a year more bridge money than George is,” Surrette said.

    “That is right, how many bridges does George have. How many bridges do  you have, compared to me and Bubba?” Vaughn asked. “Bubba are you going…”

    “I am listening,” Tillman said, staying out of the discussion.

    “That money is paid in by all the citizens of the county… The money that is paid in over in Beat Four, it is being divided up not equally among those folks. It is going over into Beat One. If that is fair, I don’t know what fair really is,” Surrette said. Surrette was referencing a decision made over a decade ago, when the bridge money collected in the county was distributed based on the number of bridges in each Beat, rather split five equal ways.

    “If you take into consideration I got 180 road miles to take care of, probably 60 or 70 more miles than you have,” Vaughn said.

    “Well probably not,” Surrette answered.

    “We are drawing the same amount of road money, where is that money going?” Vaughn asked.

    “I look at it, the population of the people that are paying the taxes, the taxes ought to spent by the people that are paying it,” Surrette said.

    “No,” Vaughn answered.

    “Yes, should be,” Surrette.

    “I still believe that. I always did believe that. I always voted to that end. Along with Amos over there. We got voted down when they started splitting the bridge money up the other way,” Surrette said.

    “I don’t see where all of this extra money is needed. I really don’t,” Vaughn said.

    “Well I can see where you wouldn’t see it.

    “Why don’t you have $600,000 in the bank?” Vaughn asked.

    “Because I haven’t been getting that $30,000 from George every year,” Surrette answered. “That’s $330,000.”

    “Road maintenance money is divided equal. The bridge money is not, cause some have more bridges,” Tillman said, joining the discussion.

    “I got a pile of bridges and got some good bridges. I got three more bridges,” Tillman added, that currently need maintenance.

    “Road maintenance, let me say this, if I thought I needed it I would be 100 percent jumping up here right now. I am not saying Butch Surrette is not no manager of his road money. The folks out there in Beat Three handle it with him,” Tillman said.

    “They have done it for a long time, five terms,” Surrette said.

    “I am going to make it this year,” Tillman said, adding next year could be a different  picture.

    “At one time, I had thought about it, to shift some money into our road maintenance,” Tillman said.

    “If you are I went to the taxpayers of this county and asked them for more money for road maintenance with us sitting on $500,000 or $600,000 in reserve. They would run us out of the county and they would have every right to,” Vaughn said.

    “That is the reason I am saying, I am not for doing it now,” Tillman said.

    “I am not for doing it next year,” Vaughn replied.

    “I am going to be able to make it, I hope you are,” Surrette said.

    “We are going to all make it,” Tillman said.

    “I don’t won’t to rob that fund we worked so hard to build,” Vaughn said.

    “I have to agree with Tommy. That is one thing we have. We have made some cuts that were tough around our belts… We were trying to get ourselves a little breathing room,” Sims said.

    “I made a promise that I wasn’t going to raise taxes, and so help me God I won’t do it as long as I am in here,” Vaughn said.

    “I don’t believe we were talking about raising taxes,” Surrette responded, adding they were going to take the road money from the reserve in the general fund.

    “I don’t want to be disagreeable, it is just a difference of opinion,” Vaughn said.

    “I know where you are, what you are doing,” Surrette said.

    “I know the difference between discussing things and grandstanding, and it is a difference,” Surrette said.

    “We aren’t getting anywhere here, let’s move on,” Vaughn said.

    “You are right, we are not getting anywhere,” Surrette said.

    “You don’t ever get out of debt by borrowing money,” Vaughn said as the matter died.


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