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Department Heads Review Budgets In First Round Of Budget Talk, Second Meeting Set For Thursday

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – The county’s department heads brought their annual budget requests to supervisors as the number crunching got underway last week for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
    Supervisors offered little feedback during the budget portion of the meeting held August 4, with Board President Tommy Vaughn kicking off the conversation with an explanation.
    “Don’t feel bad if we don’t respond to it in a negative or positive way, we got to wait and see what money we have to deal with before we make a decision,” Vaughn explained.
  Last month supervisors learned the county’s actual taxable value for the coming fiscal year climbed a modest 2.65 percent, which only generates an extra $85,000 to the general fund budget based on the current millage rate.
    Mandated pay raises for elected officials will gobble up almost half of that increase and includes a $3,500 increase for the tax assessor/collector along with an extra $6,500 offered for both the tax collector and deputy collector based on reaching three training benchmarks.
    Another mandated raise increased the sheriff’s annual salary by $13,600 starting July 1.
    The raises also include a $1,000 annual increase for supervisors triggered after the county assessed value passed 75,000,000 last year. The pay of the county’s justice court judges, county prosecuting attorney and board attorney are set the same as supervisors and also went up $1,000 a year to $34,700 annually.
    Although the raises actually took effect back in January, the new fiscal year’s budget will reflect the full amount of the increase.
Department Requests
    Yalobusha Coroner Ronnie Stark was first to address supervisors – with two requests for additional money for his budget that starts on October 1.
    Stark requested two new radios that utilize the state’s Mississippi Wireless Information Network (MS-WIN) – one for him and a second for deputy coroner Debbie Jackson.
    “So Debbie and I can have contact with the sheriff’s department, fire department and ambulance service whenever we are on a call,” Stark explained. A similar request was rejected last year. All of the county and municipal first responders–with the exception of the City of Water Valley police and fire personnel – are now using the MS-WIN radios.
    Stark’s second request was for a monthly salary increase.    
    “The coroner’s office has not received an increase in salary since 2003,” Stark explained. The job currently pays $550 monthly, but statute allows supervisors to add an additional $350 supplement for a total of $900 per month.
    “All of the surrounding counties are paying $900 a month, so I would appreciate y’alls consideration in that,” Stark added.
  “We will take it in consideration,” Vaughn said.      
    Next to address the board was Mississippi Department of Human Services County Director Jessie Gurner with a request to shift money already allocated in her budget to address infrastructure needs at the aging building located on Frost-land Drive in Water Valley.
    “There is some general maintenance work that needs to be done in that building,” Gurner explained. The request would increase the funding allocated for building needs from $700 to $2,000 – but would offset from savings on office supplies which are now ordered through the state office, according to Gurner.
    “We appreciate what you have done in ordering materials, that took a load off of us,” Vaughn told Gurner.
    Yalobusha County Library System director Patty Bailey followed Gurner and reiterated the need for a $4,700 budget increase to cover a modest salary increase for the library’s six staffers, from $9.50 to $10 an hour. Bailey first pitched the request last month along with a plea for an extra $1,000 to match a grant that funds internet service at the county libraries in Coffeeville and Oakland. The $1,000 request was funded at the July meeting, but Bailey was asked to attend the August budget meeting along with other department heads as part of the formal budget process.
    The library director explained that the salary increase, if granted, would be the first in seven years. She also explained that state funding for personnel, based on the formula triggered on the population and per capita, does not fully cover the staff’s pay.
    “We are very dependent on you for any increase or any needs we have in that area,” Bailey added. She also noted that the library system aggressively seeks grants to supplement the library system’s budget.
    • Extension agent Brent Gray did not request any changes in the coming year’s budget. Instead Gray had praise for the investments made by supervisors at the county-owned Multi-purpose Building in Coffeeville.
    “I would like to thank all of you for all the help you have given us at the building this year. The fans have made a tremendous difference,” Gray reported.
    Gray was referring to the $15,000 purchase of two huge ceiling fans that keep air flowing in the arena and reportedly cools  the building as much as 10 degrees.
    “It’s pretty nice in there in the summer now,” Gray added. 
More Requests
    • EMA Director Frank Hyde had one simple increase for his 2014-15 budget, an extra $1,000 to purchase a second dry water suit for diving during an emergency operation.
    Hyde said the county has one dry water suit that was donated by George Crocker after emergency responders had to dive in winter conditions during a wrecker call. Hyde said the county had previously used the old “skin type” suits that are cumbersome.
    “These dry suits, when you go in cold water it doesn’t bother you at all,” Hyde explained.
    • Tax Assessor/Collector Linda Shuffield received approval to lease a digital plotter to reproduce county maps for the tax office at a cost of $250 per month for 60 months. She reported existing money in her budget would cover the expense.
     • Sheriff Lance Humphreys reported his gas budget does not reflect the current price of gas. He explained the current budget calculates the gallons needed based on $2 per gallon, which means his new budget will reflect an increase based on the current price of gas. He also requested a $100 monthly raise for his deputies.
    • Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney did not request any changes to his budget. He reported that he had money remaining in his elections line item for the current year, but the full amount would likely be needed with a busy round of elections in the coming year.
    • Purchasing Clerk Janet Caulder asked for an increase in her equipment line item to replace an exhausted printer and copying machine with a new all-in-one unit. She also requested a $50 raise for county employees.
    “Because if you don’t ask, you don’t get,” she explained.
    Budget discussion will resume during a recessed meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday in the third floor board room of the Water Valley courthouse.

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