By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – While many of the decisions made by supervisors during recent board meetings have been routine business, an underlying concern frequently discussed is how state budget cuts will affect the county’s budget and services.
This concern follows four rounds of cuts from Governor Haley Barbour, totalling more than $458 million from the state’s current fiscal year, as Barbour attempts to adjust for lagging sales tax collections.
At issue is how the cuts, which will balance the state’s budget, will put more hardship on local budgets including the school and county.
“I understand, just like everybody else does, that the revenues are way off. But, what we got is people (in Jackson) saying we are not going to raise taxes. They are speaking with a loud voice, and they are sending it right on down to the counties for us to raise taxes for them. And I don’t like it,” District Three Supervisor M.H. “Butch” Surrette, reported during the Feb. 1 board meeting.
Surrette is one of 11 supervisors across the state that serves on the Mississippi Association of Supervisors legislative committee and regularly provides updates at county board meetings.
During the Feb. 1 board meeting, supervisors identified several concerns, starting with a statewide $5.6 million cut made Jan. 22 to the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) State Aid Road Construction Program.
“It is going to be about $51,000 cut out of Yalobusha County,” Willis Engineering Representative Doc Gabbert told supervisors. “You will probably lose a bridge,” Gabbert continued, referring to the impact of losing the money on future bridge projects. The State Aid Road Program provides funds to assist Mississippi counties for the construction and maintenance of secondary, non-state owned roads and bridges.
A bigger concern expressed at the Feb. 1 meeting was the state’s decision to cut homestead exemption reimbursements to the county. The county is still required to grant the exemption, but will have to absorb the loss.
Typically the state will reimburse $100 of a $300 homestead exemption.
“We want to be sure that we know from the get-go that this is not something that the legislature is doing,” Surrette emphasized. “The legislature didn’t take this money. This was the governor that took this money.”
Other problematic areas discussed was how the budget cuts would affect school funding and the Legislative Car Tag Credit, a subsidy fund that offsets the price of a car tag.
“You need to call your legislators and senators right away,” Surrette added.
“Not just us, the people that are reading about it,” District One Supervisor Tommy Vaughn agreed.