County faces budget overages, Pearl River Basin district closes doors

Published 7:00 am Friday, May 19, 2017


With five months left in the fiscal year, the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors discussed some of the problems each department is facing due to funding issues passed down from the state legislature.

Despite the county road department being 20 percent under budget through April, Road Manager Charlie Schielder said he has to pull crew from pothole patching to resurface roads.

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Schielder asked the Board for permission to hire four new crew members, on a part-time basis, to help ensure all tasks are completed.

“Charlie to his credit, is trying to manage his budget, but the truth is if we’re going to haul asphalt and pull people off pothole patching, I see that putting us behind,” Board Vice President Hudson Holliday, who presided over the meeting in President Sandy Kane Smith’s absence, said.

The Board took no action on the matter.

In other budgetary matters, the Board discussed a contract for electronic monitoring services for juvenile offenders.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said the service costs $9 per day, but is much cheaper than housing an offender in a juvenile detention facility.

“We have this issue in Jackson where they’re cutting everything and basically all Jackson is doing is passing it down to us,” Lumpkin said.

“The state doesn’t raise taxes, they pass it down to us and make us raise it,” District II Supervisor Malcolm Perry said.

The Board approved the contract, saying it was the only way for the county to make a difference for the kids.

Mike Davis, with the Pearl River Basin Development District, gave the Board some unfortunate news. Due to a lack of state funding and support from other counties, the Board decided there is no longer any recourse and the organization will have to shut down.

Davis asked the Board on Wednesday to continue funding the organization until a transfer of ownership of land and the $4 million trust fund can take place.

In recent years, the PRBDD aided a number of projects in Pearl River County, including the renovations at Walkiah Bluff Water Park, playground equipment at Henleyfield and is currently working on the Lower Pearl River Restoration Project with the Army Corps of Engineers, Davis said.

He told the Board that if another sponsor of that project doesn’t come forward, the money could be turned over to the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks or the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

Holliday recommended the Board continue to fund the project.

“We don’t need to lose any ground these guys have worked so many years to establish,” Perry said.

Pearl River County Emergency Management Director Danny Manley said that if the restoration project doesn’t take place, there won’t be any water left at the park.

Holliday added that it would also affect the operations at Stennis Space Center.

In a separate matter, Chancery Clerk Melinda Bowman said she found a way for her department to save money by hiring a company to send notices via certified mail to property owners that owe taxes from 2014, she said.

Working with the company, Bowman said she’s been able to create a simple notice that says property owners have until August 21 to pay land taxes from 2014 before they lose ownership.

Bowman said hiring the company is cheaper than creating the notices in-house and mailing them through the U.S. Postal Service.

The notices went out May 5 and people have been steadily coming in to pay the back taxes, Bowman said.

Overall, Perry said the county is about $394,000 over budget as of April 30. The Board decided to hold a department head meeting June 5 at 1 p.m. to discuss how to get the budget back in line.

“We can’t print more money,” Perry said.

Previously, the Board discussed overages in the Circuit Court budget.

“Part of it, too, is the added judge,” Lumpkin said. “They’re getting through cases, but it’s another one of those deals where the position is created and you’re given $80,000 for your office but the state says you have to have two to three people. That takes care of one, we have to take up the other costs.”

Board Attorney Joe Montgomery stressed the need for attention in the Circuit Court system, once again telling Board members to attend a day in court to understand their needs.

Montgomery also said if a case doesn’t go to trial within 270 days, the accused walks.

The next Board meeting will be held June 5 at 9 a.m. in the Boardroom.


About Julia Arenstam

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