By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – Although a month earlier than usual, supervisors began budget talk at Monday’s recessed board meeting after Chancery Clerk Amy McMinn painted a bleak picture for millage projections in the coming fiscal year which begins October 1.
Pointing to a $1 million less in the assessed value of automobiles and four million more in industrial tax exemptions, McMinn said the differences will push the amount a mill creates in the county from the current $55,000 to an estimated $52,000 in the 2009/2010 fiscal year. Without implementing budget cuts, the decrease value of a mill will require an estimated 2.5 mill tax increase to generate the same amount of money needed to operate the county’s general fund, McMinn continued; a prediction that sparked Monday’s budget talk.
“It’s time for cutting, the economy dictates that,” District Three Supervisor M.H. “Butch” Surrette, said, as supervisors seemed like-minded on this portion of the equation but disagreed on a another option, dipping into the county’s $2.5 million reserve fund.
Surrette’s suggestion to dip into this reserve fund came after he recommended that supervisors mandate no pay raises for county employees and make cuts everywhere else possible.
“Before we raise taxes, I am for going into this fund of money where we have over-collected for the last few years and we have an excess fund,” Surrette continued. “I don’t think it is going to take much out of it too settle us up.”
Surrette’s proposal brought a quick response from District One Supervisor Tommy Vaughn, who has been an outspoken advocate for earmarking the county’s surplus money for capital improvement projects
“Let me say my two-cents worth,” replied Vaughn. “I don’t believe taking money out of that fund that is not a renewable revenue is the answer to our problems. That money, we’re are gonna need for one or two projects down the road,” Vaughn continued, referring to purchasing a building for the Department of Human Service or building a new county jail.
“If we don’t have it (reserve money) there for that, then we are going to raise taxes and it will go on for 20 years trying to pay off a bond,” Vaughn concluded.
“You don’t give raises and you don’t cut taxes,” Vaughn said, comparing to using the county’s reserve fund as actually cutting taxes.
“We are not quite as bad as some other counties,” District Two Supervisor Amos Sims concluded.
• The total amount of assessed value on industries in the county exempted from ad valorem taxes will grow from $9 million in FY 2009 to $13 million in FY 2010. The increases come as Valley Tool, Inc., BorgWarner and Windsor Foods were each granted an exemption from county ad valorem taxes starting October 1. The exemptions will stay on the tax rolls for 10 years.
• The overall assessed value of the county will increase in the coming year, but in addition to industrial exemptions and a decrease in car tags, additional exemptions will be granted for homestead applications, people who have turned 65 years-old in the last year and people have been declared disabled.
• The industrial tax exemptions do not apply for the two school districts in the county and both schools will see an increase in the assessed value in the districts.