Pearl River County accounts for most of 15th District Attorney cases

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, August 15, 2017

During the Pearl River County Board of Supervisor’s first budget workshop for the 2018 fiscal year, the Board set out to reduce the requested funding totaling $18.3 million to fit within the projected revenue of $17.2 million.
The 2017 general fund budget was set at about $17 million. The projected revenue for that year was expected to rise three percent due to property reappraisals within the county.
Monday, the Board heard budget requests from several departments, including the 15th District Attorney’s office.
Fifteenth District Attorney Hal Kittrell asked the Board for an additional $38,000 to increase a part-time secretary position to full-time.
Kittrell said the Pearl River County office currently has three assistant district attorneys, one full-time secretary and one part-time secretary. However, Kittrell said the increasing caseload demands two full-time secretaries.
Of the five counties in the 15th District, Kittrell said Pearl River County accounts for 43 percent of the caseload, followed by Lamar County with 28 percent.
Of those cases in Pearl River County, Kittrell said about 45 percent were related to drug offenses.
“Is crime increasing? I believe it is but it’s one of those cases where I think they [law enforcement] are doing their job,” Kittrell said.
Recently, he said there has been an increase in burglaries, with some offenders being released into the same circumstances and committing more crimes.
According to Kittrell, about 20 percent of Pearl River County cases in 2016 were property crimes.
If approved, the additional funding request would bring the DA’s budget up to $300,799.
In other court-related matters, Circuit Clerk Nance Stokes requested an additional $63,000 in the Circuit Clerk’s budget and $145,200 in the Circuit Court’s budget.
Stokes said that since about 2012, both departments have been over budget due to the caseload and the addition of a third judge in 2016.
With both county and circuit court holding court out-of-term due to the caseload, the costs are rising, Stokes said.
Stokes requested a total of $528,880 for the Circuit Clerk’s budget, $610,000 for the Circuit Court’s budget and $538,500 for County Court.
The Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department also requested budget increases for the department and the jail.
Sheriff David Allison requested additional funding to give the investigative team a 10 percent raise to become more competitive with other departments in the state.
Allison said the department has had trouble filling vacant positions in the past due to the increased demand in hours and the inability of investigators to work a side job.
“If we give them this raise, Lamar County [investigators] are still making $10,000 more a year than our investigators,” he said.
The $130,000 increase in the administrative budget also accounts for financing of new vehicles, repair costs and gas. The total request for the administrative budget was $3.3 million.
Allison also requested an additional $136,000 in funding for the jail budget, bringing it up to $3.19 million. The increase would cover rising medical costs, a surplus in MDOC inmates awaiting parole violation hearings, insurance rates and transportation van financing.
Allison said he is trying to work out an agreement with Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home to provide medical services and fill prescriptions there at a lower cost.
The Board will hold a regular meeting on Aug. 23 at 9 a.m.

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About Julia Arenstam

Staff Writer

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