North Central Planning and Development District budget consultant Tony Green outlined a proposed county budget to the Board of Supervisors last Thursday, and one sentiment was shared by board members: There should be no tax increase.
Due to the mandated reclassification of the county’s soil from Upper Brown Loam to Upper Coastal Plains, the county’s net assessed values decreased $543,180 from last year. Real property value, the revenue category affected by the reclassification, is $41,825,181, down $617,502 from last year, and mobile home values decreased $13,101, mainly from depreciation, Tax Assessor and Collector Velma Young said.
Some values increased this year. Personal property values were up $162,891 to $3,783,151 over last year, as were motor vehicle values, increasing $275,077 to $11,860,190.
Green explained that Homestead values were up significantly as well this year, $152,336, lowering the net assessed value to $53,130,001, down $543,180 from last year.
Because of the drop in net assessed value, the county’s tax millage value has decreased as well. Green said one mill in Montgomery County is $543 less in fiscal year 2015. The total of one mill is $53,130 versus $53,673 last year.
Even with the net assessed value of the county down this year, Green said Montgomery County is strong financially.
“Revenue collections are good,” Green said. “Spending levels are good. The financial stability of the county is solid. There are really good cash reserves, so financial stability is not an issue here. For a small county, there are adequate cash reserves to get by.”
After granting all budget increases requested by county departments in the proposed budget, the general fund would have a shortfall of $90,163. However, Green said there are options to alleviate the need for a millage increase this year.
In the past, fees collected for garbage collection did not cover the cost of garbage service for the county, and funds from the general fund were used to offset those fees. In July, the board raised the fees from $13 per month to $15 a month to cover the cost of the service entirely, saving the county $30,500 to be used where needed.
Green suggested shifting one mill from the county’s Road Fund into the General Fund. That transfer, along with the savings made in the general fund when making up a shortfall in the county’s garbage fees and the savings of $6533 in bond issue debt payments, a tax increase could be avoided.
Montgomery County School District
The Montgomery County School District did request an increase in funds in the amount of $17,507.
The district’s total request is 43.09 mills, up 2.38 mills from last year.
According to Green, the proposed budget includes reflects a handful of expense increases.
• The Veterans Services office is looking for $800 in additional funding, $500 for meals and lodging and $300 for travel.
• The Circuit Clerk’s office is requesting an increase of $39,800 to pay for fiscal year 2015’s two elections, November’s general election and August 2015’s county primary election.
• The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department is seeking an increase of $22,953 in this budget to pay for a mandated salary increase and fringe benefits for Sheriff Bubba Nix in compliance with House Bill 1409 that went into law on July 1, setting the salaries for all Mississippi sheriffs. However, any increase in expenses will not raise the annual budget of the Sheriff’s Department because that new expense will be offset by additional revenue coming into the department.
House Bill 1409 also raises the amount of fees charged by the Sheriff’s Department for serving warrants to $40. According to Green, those fees will offset the cost of the salary increase, and Nix said whatever funds not made up by the fees, he would absorb into his regular budget.
In addition, the Sheriff’s Department was once again awarded a DUI grant to fund the county’s authorized DUI officer. This year’s grant funds increased $1,608.
• The Soil Conservation office is seeking a $100 increase
• The Montgomery County Extension Service is requesting a $587 increase to offset the increase in fringe benefits.
• The American Red Cross is requesting a $1,000 to aid in its emergency assistance services in Montgomery County.
Green said he is concerned about several unknown variables that may have a effect on next year’s budget. He explained that there may be a possibility of three murder trials this upcoming year.
The Board of Supervisors is taking the proposed budget under advisement for further discussion. When a final budget is agreed upon, a public hearing will be set to hear public concerns. If there are no further changes needed after the public hearing, the Board of Supervisors will adopt the budget. The deadline for adopting a final county budget is September 15.