Itawamba County board tackles budget woes

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

As former Itawamba County Board of Supervisors President Danny Holley was fond of saying, “When the weather gets hot, the budget gets hot.”

It’s pretty warm outside.

Last week, county supervisors voted to make approximately $12,500 worth of amendments to the county’s budget, filling in deficits left by over-expenditures in several departments. The money was pulled from the county’s general fund.

The need to do so was brought to the attention of the board by county administrator Gary Franks, who said that the board won’t be able to pay its bills without moving some money around.

“We need to amend these budgets or you can’t pay your claims,” Franks said.

Most of the over-expenditures, Franks said, were unavoidable.

“Some of these are travel; some are repairs. These are all just things that come up during the year,” he said.

“I reckon we’ve had every air conditioner we own go out this year,” Fourth District Supervisor Eric “Tiny” Hughes added with a smirk.

Departments whose budgets required amending included the county coroner’s office, the port and bridge and culvert.

Additionally, a number of departments are dangerously close to running over budget. It’s near the end of the fiscal year (September 30), which means money is running out and budgets are getting tight.

For example, Itawamba County’s Solid Waste department only has about $75 of its budget left to last through the end of the year. The local sheriff’s department — one of the county’s biggest expenses — has about $26,000 left. That may seem like a lot, but it has to account for everything … from salaries to gasoline.

“You’re going to be close,” Franks told Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson, who was in attendance. “I’m not being critical; I’m just making everyone aware.”

Although the department’s budget is close, board members commended the sheriff for his work in lowering expenses. The department’s budget was cut considerably this fiscal year, but so far the sheriff has kept spending within the more confined boundaries.

Increasing gas prices, however, are a real problem. Things have been busy for the sheriff’s department, which means more travel and higher expenditures on fuel.

Dickinson said deputies travel a total average of around 1,500 miles every day. If the department is paying for that fuel at the current gas rate of around $3.30 per gallon, that’s about $5,000 per day in travel.

“That’s the trouble I’ve been having,” the sheriff said. “We’re running all over the county locking people up.”

“I understand that,” Franks responded. “But sometime next month, we’re going to have to address this situation.”

“I’m just in a bad spot,” Dickinson said, a sentiment echoed throughout many departments.

adam.armour@journalinc.com