County’s budget includes increase for SP schools 9/9/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2014

County’s budget includes increase for SP schools

By Rupert Howell

Supervisors Monday approved Panola County’s budget and proposed millage to fund it with little or no objection to the $36,308,302 total.

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Millages to fund that budget are 123.59 in the North Panola School District and 132.09 in South Panola District. Add two mills in rural areas to support fire districts and drainage district tax where applicable.

The South Panola millage increase will amount to approximately five percent over last year and North Panola’s millage will decrease a small fraction of one percent.

Both Panola County and South Panola School District dipped into reserve funds while attempting to balance their budgets as both faced declines in taxable property due regulations and tax exemptions offered by the state. Millage for county operations did not increase.

An $800,000 donation, $600,000 to South Panola and $200,000 to Panola County, from South Mississippi Electric Power Association helped cover some of the lost revenue from tax exemptions.

According to pie charts furnished by County Administrator Kelley Magee, the 61 percent of revenue funded locally included approximately $13 million in local taxes with the remainder derived through services, licenses and fees, fines, forfeitures and other sources.

State funds make up approximately nine percent of Panola’s revenue while federal sources account for seven percent.

An additional 50 percent of local millage is raised for the county’s two school districts while approximately two percent goes to support Northwest Community College.

Two citizens, Harold Armes and John Green, used Monday’s budget hearing  as a forum for recommendations to derive revenue and consolidate services.

Armes wanted an alternate tax to property tax to pay school taxes such as a sales tax stating that those paying property tax weren’t necessarily the ones with children in school. 

Changes in school funding would have to come through the legislature and supervisors have little or no say concerning school funding as they receive a request from the schools’boards for funding that must meet state parameters.

Green criticized several actions of supervisors including employment of different personnel as county road engineer, flood plain manager, GPS technician as well as allocating funds to Panola Partnership, the county’s economic and development agency that also acts a county-wide Chamber of Commerce. He also criticized that agency’s recent hiring of a company to help find additional retail markets and retail businesses interested for the area. Green was critical of the county’s lease/purchase of heavy trucks and law enforcement automobiles stating, “You’re buying everybody SUV’s.”

He also recommended offering additional schooling to employees in lieu of raises.

Green was armed with files and newspaper clippings taking on the board for most of 30 minutes before they recessed until Sept. 25.