By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – Working on a department by department basis, supervisors began making cuts in an attempt to offset less revenue expected in the coming fiscal year. The preliminary budget work began during the “first Monday” meeting held in Water Valley, after county officials took care of the routine items on the agenda.
The anticipated budget cuts and juggling has been a familiar topic after supervisors learned that the county would feel the effect of the global recession, specifically with a $1 million reduction in the assessed value of automobiles, a figure triggered by the decline of new vehicles purchased by Yalobushians.
Another negative factor impacting the county’s budget are industrial tax exemptions totalling $4 million. The new exemptions include expansions or new equipment purchased at BorgWarner and Valley Tool, as well as a hefty tax exemption for Windsor Foods.
Among specific budget increases discussed Monday include:
• An across-the-board increase in health insurance premiums for all county employees.
• A hefty increase from Seven Oaks Funeral Home to pick up deceased people for Coroner Ronnie Stark. The charge for a pickup would more than double, and the funeral home would begin charging for storage, a charge not assessed in the past, according to Stark.
• Sheriff Lance Humphreys told supervisors he would need more money for his jail budget if supervisors do not make a decision to move forward with plans to build a new jail by the end of August. Humphreys said he would need money to house and transport state prisoners, citing a September 1 deadline imposed by the state’s prisoner rights attorney, Ron Welch. This deadline comes in the form of a federal court order and commands that no state prisoners be housed in the county’s jail after September 1 unless planning is underway for a new jail.
Cuts outlined Monday also included a wide range of items ranging from travel expenses for county employees and elected officials to less money allocated for elections in the coming years.
“From what I have seen, every department has bent over backwards to help the county out,” District One Supervisor Tommy Vaughn said.
At the end of the budget cutting, supervisors estimated they still were almost $70,000 short without increase the millage rate.
“You are talking about more than a mill and a half,” District Three Supervisor M.H. “Butch” Surrette said, referring the necessary millage to generate $70,000.
“Can we take $70,000 out of our escrow fund and use it to offset that?” Vaughn asked, referring the county’s $2 million plus general fund surplus.
“The escrow fund generates about $65,000 a year and right now we don’t have any of that money budgeted,” replied Joe McRaney, a Governmental Specialist who works for North Central Planning and Development District and assists the county during the budget process.
“Why couldn’t we use that to offset this (shortage)?” Vaughn asked.
“We got to,” Surrette answered.
“It is not a fix, but at least with everything coming along this time it will ease the burden,” Vaughn added.
Other business discussed at the meeting included:
• Approved an application to exceed the posted weight limit for Harrison Logging while hauling timber in Beat Three. A second application from Harrison Logging was also approved in Beat Five.
• Approved permits for two stores located in the county to sell beer.
The first application was approved for Henry Johnson for H and L Country Store on County Road 225. The county’s beer permit will allow Johnson to sale hot beer for off-premises consumption.
A second application was approved for Pit Stop, a store located on Hwy. 51 in Tillatoba. The business was granted permit for on-premise consumption, which will allow customers to be served cold beer while dining at the store.
Vaughn initially expressed reservations about granting the permit, explaining that the business had already been cited for possessing illegal poker machines.