Tax Levy

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2010

County approves tax levy at hearing

By Billy Davis

The Panola County Board of Supervisors passed a 2011 budget Monday, hoping that conservative accounting will ensure county government ends the new fiscal year in the black.

“The expenditures do exceed revenue – yes,” County Administrator Kelley Magee, answering a question from the public, said at the budget hearing.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Magee went on to explain, in summary, what she has told The Panolian in past weeks: county government will limp through 2011 but will survive it thanks to careful, cautious accounting.  

She cited conservative estimates of revenue, which has become a hallmark of her accounting, and stingy spending by department heads.   

“We’ve done it now for two years and we’re set to finish in the black this year,” she told questioner Gary Ramsey.   

The county board was approving and passing its 2011 budget, and approving the tax levy, to meet a state deadline of September 15. The fiscal year begins October 1.

The 2011 budget does not include a raise in tax levy, though a budget increase by South Panola School District was expected to bump the levy by 2.48 mills.  North Panola’s budget will increase the levy there by .07 mills.

The tax levy for South Panola is 58.73 mills, and 59.62 mills in North Panola, for the new fiscal year.

Over several budget meetings, county supervisors winnowed an expected shortfall of $799,884 to $636,241 thanks to budget trimming by department heads. The cuts were led by the sheriff’s department, which has the largest budget of any county department.

Panola Sheriff’s candidate Phillip Herron, during public comments, asked supervisors to further cut the sheriff’s department budget by 10 percent or “go on record” that they oppose his request. His request was rebuffed by several supervisors, who pointed out that interim Sheriff Otis Griffin had already made cuts.

“My response is that we’ve already negotiated with them. We should leave it alone,” said board president Gary Thompson.

“So you’re against further cuts?” Herron said.

“That’s right,” Thompson said.

 “I think they’ve cut plenty,” said Supervisor Bubba Waldrup.

The budget was passed with two separate votes, with the sheriff’s budget passed separately from other departments.

Thompson, although he had defended the sheriff’s budget, recused himself from the vote because his son is employed there as an investigator.

A second sheriff’s candidate, Dennis Darby, was also present for the budget hearing. Darby said later that he disagreed with Herron’s demand to cut the budget.

“I believe in taking the county money and using it wisely,” he said. “But I wouldn’t ask for a 10-percent cut, not until I reviewed the budget first.”

Magee presented the proposed budget in PowerPoint, using graphs and pie charts to show revenue sources and expenditures, and department budget comparisons, among other descriptions.