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Supervisors set budget

Before recessing to allow board members to attend a funeral yesterday, Pearl River County supervisors heard from residents questioning the need for a possible tax increase, but later approved the county’s budget without a tax increase.
Dave Sims, a former publisher of the Picayune Item, questioned why a proposed tax increase was being considered in light of increased growth in the county in the last several years.
Sims pointed to the increase in the tax roles and assessed value of property in the county. He also said the increase in county staffs, particularly after Katrina, didn’t appear to require the amount of additional millage being considered.
“Seems to me we ought to be decreasing the millage instead of increasing it,” Sims said.
Part of the increase in funds coming in was from FEMA grants and other hurricane-related expenses that doesn’t affect the tax situation, said Adrain Lumpkin, county administrator.
He said when department line items in the budget are presented as percentages of the overall budget the picture becomes clearer.
One example used is funding the county actually receives when a car tag is purchased. District V Supervisor Robert Thigpen said approximately 60 percent of tag costs, depending on the taxing district in the county, goes to schools and not the county. Of the car tag amounts, the county ultimately gets only about $55 of a tag that costs a taxpayer $300, he said.
In another example, District III Supervisor Larry Davis said the approximately 36 percent of the county population that is retired lowers the amount of revenue coming in because of special homestead exemption. He said that is set at the state level that the county cannot control.
“That knocks a big hole in it (the revenue coming to the county),” Davis said.
Sims agreed with that portion of the discussion, but said a lot of the new people coming into the county from of the New Orleans area because of Katrina were under the 65 age level.
In response to Sims assessment of new home construction and population increase, District V Supervisor Robert Thigpen said if one of the new houses being built generates a tax bill of $1,000, the county general fund only gets about a $300 slice of that pie.
Lumpkin said that $300, like the car tag amount above, is then parceled out among the various departments funded through the general fund line items.
District I Supervisor Anthony Hales said the question of why growth in the county and income from it doesn’t seem to keep up with the demand for services is one that supervisors have asked for years.
“For some reason it just don’t seem to keep up,” Hales said.
Thigpen said whether a person’s taxes were figured through regular homestead or special homestead, the county has to pay the same cost for services to both groups of taxpayers.
Sims urged the board to keep the public informed about the budget and the tax situation.
“I think we’re entitled to a good explanation as to why the increase … in spending (is being considered),” Sims said early in his presentation. “That’s an awful lot of money.”
After reconvening in the afternoon, supervisors approved by a vote of 5-0 the 2007 budget with no millage increase.
In other matters, the board:
— Received a report on collection of delinquent taxes from Specialized Management Services, learning that to date the county had received $44,348 in delinquent mobile home taxes and $20,692 personal property taxes. The board voted to renew the company’s contract.
— Acknowledged receipt of the Solid Waste Advisory Board recommendation to move forward with a Waste Management footprint expansion request at the Millard landfill and to proceed with scheduling a public hearing within 30 days with 90 days for the board to vote on the request. The board voted 4-1, with Hales voting no, to meet with the advisory board to review the proposed solid waste plan prior to the final vote.
— Accepted by 5-0 vote a $94,900 bid for a new dump truck and accepted personnel changes presented by the road department.
— Approved recommendations from planning department for accepting with conditions the final plat of Juniper Village subdivision and the preliminary plat of Knoll Creek in Wildwood subdivision. Asked Harold Holmes to provide an approximate number of subdivision homes sites in the county for the next board meeting.
— Instructed the county administrator to look into a Poplarville site, in addition to the Picayune site, for the Adolescent Offender Program and clear up travel questions to the new location by AOP personnel.
— Went into executive session on an economic development matter and a personnel issue.
Voted to meet at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26 for discussion of bids for construction management on repairing the courthouse roof and demolition of the Chimney Square building in Picayune.