County Budget

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 17, 2009

Administrator asks for quicker start on county budget

By Billy Davis

The Panola County Board of Supervisors has set a recess date of July 22 at 4 p.m. to begin planning the 2009-2010 county budget.

At Monday’s Second District meeting, County Administrator Kelley Magee asked the county board to start soon in order to properly plan for the budget.

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When Magee was hired last August, she watched as supervisors held their first budget meeting in mid-August with outgoing administrator David Chandler.

The county board adopted its present budget on September 11 last year, just beating a state deadline of September 15. The fiscal year begins October 1.

The current budget includes a five-mill increase, the first raise in recent memory, that supervisors grudgingly approved last year. Chandler’s financial forecast had predicted a raise of a mill or two, but the number kept inching upward as the budget meetings progressed.

The Board of Supervisors has asked department heads to whittle non-essentials from their budgets, and supervisors also skipped a summer of road improvements in 2008 rather than raise taxes even more.

The road improvements will resume this summer and fall after supervisors sought a $1.3 million bond.

Most of those funds will be spent overlaying current paved roads rather than paving gravel roads, which is more expensive. 

Shortly after her hiring, Magee was ordered to watch and reporting on the county finances over the past nine months. She has since warned her bosses that revenue is trickling in from property taxes and automobile tags. 

In a prelude to supervisors’ budget work, First Regional Library director Catherine Nathan thanked supervisors Monday for the county’s contributions to the public library system.

First Regional covers most of northwest Mississippi, including branches in Batesville, Sardis, Como and Crenshaw. It is headquartered in Hernando.

Nathan said she was aware of “really hard times” and announced that First Regional would not request an increase in millage for the coming fiscal year.

She also told supervisors First Regional employees will not receive pay raises next year.

“We’re keeping our finances as tight as a tick,” she said.

Asked by Magee about how funds are dispersed, Nathan said 80 percent of Panola taxpayers’ funds are spread among the four branches. The remaining 20 percent is allocated for the regional headquarters.

Nathan also acknowledged that millage from the City of Batesville and other municipalities are spent only for that branch. She said that decision follows through on a promise that former First Regional director Jim Anderson made to municipalities.

Supervisors also heard from Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons. He also said the Partnership would not request an increase from county government.

Despite the recession, Panola County is poised to see five expansions at local industries in coming months, Simmons told supervisors.