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Board looks at ways to shore up the county’s revenues

Deficits in the county budget that could lead to possible millage increase and a proposed sales tax increase, newly appointed members of a fair committee and budget deliberations occupied the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Any sales tax levied for the county would have to first be approved by the State Legislature.

As the board went over the budget hearings for each county department, it was clear that the $13.4 million the county is expected to collect in taxes and other revenue would not cover the proposed $15.3 million in expenditures for the next fiscal year. Thigpen said if they were to raise the millage rates to the law allowed maximum of percent, the budget still would be short by about $1.2 million.

Some expenditures include the county having to pay $100 a session for an interpreter when Spanish speaking residents are tried in court, said Justice Court Clerk Janet Miller. Miller would asked if a county employee could be trained to help interpret, saving money on her budget.

Justice Court’s budget reflected an increase, but was based on the increased cost of supplies, Miller said.

Cheryl Johnson, county prosecutor, said she has been working off a sub par budget for sometime and even has to pay her assistant out of her own pocket to provide a somewhat adequate salary. She also needs an additional computer for her office and a replacement for a printer that is on its last leg, Johnson said.

“I’m asking for some budget, period, to work with,” Johnson said. “I’d just like to have something.”

Johnson said she would like to see about getting some grants that could help with funding, but she has no time to write the grants. She asked the board for $2,500 to help refurbish equipment that she provided out of her personal office. Board president Danny Wise said the board could get her another computer out of the money used for emergency situations and possibly a new printer.

Johnson said to help fund expense increases in her office, the county could add a $3 charge to every criminal charge her office works. The board decided to try it while seeking an Attorney General’s opinion on the matter.

Sheriff Joe Stuart said he is over budget, mostly due to a 215 percent increase in gasoline costs. Stuart said that $70,000 was budgeted last fiscal year for fuel but the department spent $150,930 with gas price increases. Additionally, the high rate of turnover the department has experienced in the last year prompted Stuart to ask for pay increases for his long-time loyal staff who have not received pay increases in quite some time, he said.

An estimated $1.5 million was projected to fund the jail, but Stuart estimates the department needs about $2 million. The jail is housing about 375 inmates, so to help take the load off of a person now acting as Jail Manager, Stuart asked to hire a new person to take over as jail manager and to add six new employees.

In matters not related to the budget, consideration concerning appointing five members to the fair committee was approved. Newly appointed members include Steve Seals, Mark McCormick , Dedra Gardebled as president, Angela Isla as Treasurer, and Cindy Failla as vice president.

County Agent Billy Joe Lee said that the fair board’s treasurer needs to be bonded. The addition of three members from the southern part of the county should boost participation from that area, Lee said.

“We didn’t have much participation in the past from the southern part of the county,” Lee said.

The committee will only be involved in events concerning the county fair, not the running of the fair grounds, the board said. The board decided to eliminate the additional account for the fair committee by consolidating both into the premium account.

Dead tree removal in the county is underway to reduce any liability from trees falling onto county roads. Brooks Wallace of Dungan Engineering said that that so far 1,550 sites have been marked in the county for dead tree removal with 395 already picked up.

In other business the board;

— Approved writing a letter concerning school officers writing citations to county residents with out of state tags.

— Approved the board president to sign a 90/10 match grant for $152,950 for the Poplarville Pearl River County airport for repair to the fence, landing strip and lighting.

— Approved County administrator to write a letter concerning addition of three bailiffs to the Justice Court from the Sheriff’s Department.

— Approved tax sale reductions.

— Approved using portions of the $15,000 donated by Norfolk Southern to demolish the Wesley Fertilizer building, and repair the crossing at Jackson Landing Road and U.S. 11.

— Approved an extension for the debris cleanup of dead trees until Aug. 28, when federal funding will expire.

The board’s next meeting is at 9 a.m. Monday in the Poplarville Courthouse.