Supervisors approve bigger budget with few changes

Money bagThe Itawamba County Board of Supervisors has approved a budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, which includes a five percent tax increase for residents.

Last week, supervisors voted their approval of an ad valorem millage rate of 58.5 mills and a school millage rate of 60.9 mills. Both of these rates represented an increase from last year’s rates, which were 54.5 mills and 59.6 mills respectively.

The increase to the ad valorem rate, which affects taxes on homes, automobile tags, business fixtures, utilities and equipment — represents a three mill increase to the county’s general fund and a one mill increase to pay debt.

The county’s total millage for 2013-2014 is 126.55 mills.

Millage allotted to the county’s general fund covers the cost of general county operations, including employee salaries, road and bridge work and law enforcement. School millage covers the operating expenses of the county school district, as well as a small allotment of mills for Itawamba Community College and the adult education program.

The value of a county mill is currently set at $98,422. School mills are worth $114,627 each. The county’s assessed value this year is $128.5 million.

This year’s budget includes a three percent “cost of living” pay increase for county employees. This does not include elected officials, whose budgets are largely set using a state-controlled formula.

A quick comparison of this year’s budget to last reveals that little has changed, despite the tax increase. In fact, many departments received a decrease to their budgets from last year to the current year. In order to avoid a direct ad valorem tax increase during the past few years, officials borrowed money from the county’s “rainy day fund” to fill in budget gaps. But much like making do with what’s in the fridge rather than going shopping, there’s only so many times the county’s bills could be paid by dipping into the savings without adding more money to the pot.

Here’s a quick look at the budgets of some of the county’s departments. The stated amounts include the 3 percent raise to employee salaries and are, by and large, slightly higher than last year’s budgeted amounts:

– General government, which covers salaries of the board of supervisors and numerous other expenses necessary to run the county, has a budget of $1,033,371 this year. Of this, $401,271 are allotted for personal services, which include the supervisors’ salaries, 260,100 are in contractual services and $321,000 are in grant subsidies.

– The tax collector’s office has a budget of $264,286 this year. Of this, $236,836 is allotted for paying employees, $20,700 is for contractual services and $6,750 is for supplies.

– The tax assessor’s office has been budgeted $160,050 for the current fiscal year. This represents $132,915 for personnel, $15,615 for contractual services, $6,030 for supplies and $5,490 for debt.

– Itawamba County’s youth court has a budget of $97,151 this year. Of this, $59,791 has been set aside for personnel, and $34,110 has been put back for contractual services.

– One of the biggest budgeted items, the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department has been funded a total of $880,614 this year. Of this, $637,125 is budgeted to pay the department’s deputies and other staff; $55,251 is available for contractual services; and $152,460 is for consumable supplies, mostly fuel for the department’s many deputy cruisers.

– Itawamba County’s Jail is budgeted slightly less this year than last, due to lower-than-anticipated expenditures. This year, the jail has a budget of $419,245, a decrease of $7,500 from last year’s budget, even with the three percent pay increase. Broken down, the budget represents $331,000 for personnel, $50,895 for contractual services and $37,350 for consumable supplies.

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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