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If you read last week’s article about supervisors using a figurative black marker to slash budget requests from department heads for more money, it many have sounded a little heavy-handed. Actually it is not unusual for many requests for extra funding to get turned down during the county’s budget process each year. I have seen it happen for the last 20 years, the needs receive much higher priority than the wants. The problem is there is often a fine line between the needs and wants and I guess that is why you would say elected officials are paid the “big bucks” to do the job.
Supervisors have a tough balancing act to maintain the services in the county while not hitting the taxpayers for big increases each year, especially with the inflation since 2020. Board President Cayce Washington has led the charge to ensure county employees aren’t left behind as the cost of groceries, gas and just about everything else has jumped. The county’s full-time employees received a $2,000 annual raise that started in October, 2022 and will receive another $1,500 annual raise this coming October.
This budget work for the 2023-2024 fiscal year that starts in October spanned three meetings this month including Monday when it was finalized. This year was relatively simple, the small increase in the county’s assessed value created additional revenue ($118,595 compared to the 2022-2023 fiscal year) that supervisors allocated for mandated expenses including an increase in the employer’s contribution to the state retirement system for each employee. Supervisors also funded the $1,800 annual raise for all full-time county employees and 75 cents per hour for all part-time county employees.
Dispatchers will be among the county employees receiving this pay raise starting in October, hopefully this will help a little with retention.
Next year will be more interesting as property in the county will be reappraised. State law requires the tax assessor to revalue real property at least once every four years and 2024 is the year. Think about how much the price of real estate has increased in the last few years. Mrs. Betty Shearer’s house sold a few weeks ago, and the selling price was four times the assessed value. We have all seen houses go for more money than we ever thought possible, and the assessed value set by the tax assessor will also increase.
Yalobusha voters will also elect a new tax assessor/collector in November who will be responsible for the assessments next year. Sounds like a fun first year for a new assessor.
But remember if the assessed value of real property in the county increases exponentially, supervisors have ultimate control as they set the tax rate, or millage rate. In simple terms, if the assessed value of property increased by a third supervisors could lower the tax rate to offset the increase.
The only problem is the cost of doing business for every department in the county has also increased with inflation, and it takes more money to run county operations. My best guess: while the 2023-2024 fiscal year budget did not include a tax increase, it will be hard to escape the 2024-2025 fiscal year without paying more county taxes.