Supes have budget workshop

Published 1:42 pm Friday, August 13, 2010

County administrator Adrain Lumpkin told supervisors on Thursday here in a budget workshop that he was recommending an across-the-board five percent cut in the proposed 2010-2011 county budget and levying an additional one-mill tax to close an approximately $1 million shortfall between expected revenues and proposed expenditures.

The county on Thursday began budget workshops in which supervisors will hammer out a new 2010-2011 budget that will take effect on Oct. 1, the beginning of the county’s new fiscal year.

“Nothing is set,” said Lumpkin. “All figures and totals are preliminary.”

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Supervisors will meet again next Thursday, Aug. 19, at 9 a.m. here to continue the workshops, which are open to the public. Supervisors need their budget work completed by Sept. 15 so they can adopt the budget prior to Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

Lumpkin said that before the budget is addressed in a public hearing and adopted by supervisors, a proposed budget will be promulgated and that residents will have a chance for input at a public hearing before it is formally adopted.

The county has to advertise in a public notice in a newspaper any planned public hearing and whether or not it proposes to increase taxes. If it does not advertise any expected increases, it cannot raise taxes. But it does not have to raise taxes even if it advertises in a public notice to do so.

Lumpkin’s proposed cut and one-mill tax hike proposal was met with silence by supervisors. None of the four supervisors attending the workshop committed to Lumpkin’s proposal, although District Three Supervisor Hudson Holliday has earlier said that it will have to be “dire straits” before he votes for a tax increase.

Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith after the workshop told the press, “I am going to do what I believe is right,” but he did not elaborate.

Last year supervisors did not increase taxes to support the $16.7 million general fund budget, but they have not been as quick to say this year what they plan to do as the budget crunch has tightened down on the county, other governing bodies and agencies and departments.

The county also has a number of non-profit agencies that ask for support each year, and even depend on the county hand-out to survive, and last year supervisors repealed budget cuts to the county library system and the SPCA animal shelter in Picayune after supporters of the groups pressured supervisors to rescind the cuts.

Board president and supervisor Anthony Hales was absent, but Holliday and supervisors Patrick Lee, Smith and Joyce Culpepper were present.

Lumpkin said the largest hit that the county has taken in revenues has been in car tags, as residents postponed the purchase of new cars in order to tighten their personal budgets in the wake of a bad national economy that has gradually impacted the economy of Pearl River County.

Information Lumpkin supplied the board shows that revenues from car tags is running between an estimated $600,000 to $700,000 less than last year. And Lumpkin added, “I don’t see that turning around right now…”, which was grim news for supervisors, since it directly impacts the budget and makes up the largest part of the $1 million shortfall.

“For that to turn around, the economy has to turn around and everybody is going to have to go back and start buying new cars; what is happening right now is that everyone is holding on to their old vehicle to cut down on expenses; they are fixing what they have,” said Lumpkin.

Information supplied to supervisors by Lumpkin showed that revenues from motor vehicles in the 2009-2010 budget year is estimated at $2.4 million, but in the upcoming 2010-2011 budget year, which begins on Oct. 1 and runs to Sept. 30, 2011, tag revenue is estimated to come in at $1.7 million, a staggering reduction approaching $700,000 because of the economy.

Lumpkin told supervisors the “housing market” is flat and that the mobile home market shows signs of increasing a little, the only bright spot in the economy.

Supervisors also discussed the jail budget. They said a compromise with Hancock Co. is in the works for leaving most of their 100 prisoners, probably about 75, in the Pearl River Co. jail rather than transferring about 50 to the Marion Co. jail.

Marion Co. offered Hancock officials a prisoner housing rate of $30 a day as opposed to Pearl River’s charge of $45 a day. Supervisors said on Thursday that they were in the process of working out any problem with Hancock where most of the prisoners would remain here. Pearl River’s prison population is estimated at 375.

That was good news because any big cuts in jail revenue would send that operation into a deep deficit quickly. Last year Sheriff David Allison and the board sparred back and forth about how much the sheriff’s department was to be funded.

The county also faces additional expenses with the opening on Sept. 2 of the new Chimney Square on Goodyear Boulevard in Picayune. The new county offices for the southern end of the county is expected to cost the county an additional $200,000 annually to maintain.

And a new county court system is supposed go into effect on Jan. 1 and to add upfront about $200,000 to $300,000 in additional expenses, but supervisors have said that once the court gets underway, it will actually save the county money by unclogging the court and jail dockets.