Itawamba County taxes may remain the same

FULTON – After listening to weeks of doomsaying, it seems like Itawamba County taxpayers may not receive a tax hike this year after all.
However, the county’s financial situation hasn’t improved significantly.
During the most recent meeting of the Itawamba County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator Gary Franks reported that the proposed budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year currently contains no increase to the county’s millage, meaning if it’s passed as is, taxpayers won’t be hit with the big tax hike that was originally anticipated.
Instead, the plan is to borrow liberally from the county’s on-hand cash, which is typically saved to fund county operations from Sept. 30 until the end of the year. This would help balance the significant loss of revenue the county saw due to a $4.8 million drop in assessed value this year, which consequently dropped the value of each tax mill. Although not finalized, the board is currently considering using about $521,000 of its cash rather than raising taxes by that same amount.
In order to stay financially afloat in the last three months of the year, the county needs about $1.2 million on-hand cash. Of course, spending this money to fund operations throughout the fiscal year means it’s unavailable when October 2012 rolls around.
“You can fund a budget this way, but that means you’ll only have $728,000 at this time next year,” Franks said. “That means in December of next year, you’ll probably have to borrow some money to operate … unless we have a windfall in taxes.
“You aren’t raising taxes; you’re using cash,” he added. “But you’re getting pretty close to the point that you can’t fund anything else.”
Legally, the final budget must be approved by Thursday, Sept. 15 and will go into effect at the end of that month. The board is planning to host a special public meeting on Sept. 12, to discuss and finalize next year’s budget. The meeting is open to anyone who wants to attend and the public is encouraged to do so.
adam.armour@journalinc.com

Adam Armour | Itawamba County Times