Supervisors to watch county spending

Money bagIt’s nothing new, but the Itawamba County Board of Supervisors is having some money troubles. Namely, they’ve run out.

During the board of supervisors’ regular meeting this week, county administrator Gary Franks, who oversees the county’s budgeting, warned the board that if its current level of spending continues, they would be overdrawn by the time January rolls around.

“If spending keeps on going as it has … we’ll be almost $200,000 overdrawn,” Franks told the board.

The overexpenditures are spread across most, if not all, county departments. No one single expense has put the county in this position, Franks said; chipping away at the budget in small pieces still, eventually, leaves a big hole.

“You don’t realize how much is being spent until you look at it [all at once],” said Linda Byrd, who helps manage the county’s purchases. “You can’t spend $400,000 every month when we only have $200,000 budgeted.”

Just like a personal budget, if the board doesn’t have enough money in the bank to cover its necessary expenses — in this case, paying its employees —  the board will have to take out a loan to cover the cost.

“You’ll have to borrow that money,” Franks explained.

County finances have to cruise through the last few months of the year because of tax collections in the late fall. They resume again in January, but the county has to make do with its cash on hand until then.

According to Byrd, supervisors are simply approving too many expenses. Currently, department heads aren’t permitted to make any purchases without first receiving approval from a county supervisor. The problem is, too many purchases are being approved.

Not that all of these expenditures are frivolous — far from it. Many included repairs to county buildings or equipment purchases.

As several supervisors stated, a dollar doesn’t stretch as far as it once did.

“We have to remember, everything we deal with has doubled or tripled in price,” said Supervisor Cecil “Ike” Johnson.

Both Byrd and Franks agreed that just because something needs replacing doesn’t mean the county can necessarily afford it immediately. Franks petitioned the board to be more selective in its purchases for the time being.

“I wouldn’t spend any more money,” Franks said, adding that if an expense isn’t imperative to the operation of a department, put it on hold. “If it can be delayed, delay it … At least until mid-January. Not that the budget will be any better by then, but at least we’ll have some money.”

Supervisors agreed to watch expenditures from this point forward.

Said Supervisor Eric “Tiny” Hughes, “It’s hard to hear [this kind of thing], but you’ve got to hear it if you’re doing it.”

Ozark polls may move

Ozark community voters may see a change in their polling location next year.

Election commissioners have requested the county board move the Ozark community’s polling location — currently Ozark Baptist Church — to the Kirkville Community Center.

If approved, the change will affect approximately 134 registered voters. The proposed polling location is approximately five miles driving distance from the current location.

The written request was signed by three of the county’s five current election commissioners. Those who didn’t sign it will be leaving office next year, when the change would take place.

But according to board attorney Bo Russell, the request may not pass approval from the Mississippi Department of Justice, which must give the OK for any polling location changes.

“If you send that request up there with two names left blank, the Department of Justice isn’t going to sign off on it,” Russell told the board. “They’ll red flag it.”

Russell recommended that the request should be held until the beginning of the year, when the new commissioners take office and can add their names to the request. The board agreed.

“It would be better to wait until after the first of the year,” Supervisor Hughes said.

About Adam Armour

Adam Armour has been writing and taking photographs for "The Itawamba County Times" since 2005. His words and pictures have earned 18 Mississippi Press Association Awards, including several "Best of" category recognitions. He has written and independently published one novel and is currently working on a second.

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