EDITORIAL 9/8/2015

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Hearings are your chance to question government spending

The public budget hearings conducted by counties and municipalities annually during September offer an opportunity for questions and input about how tax money is going to be spent during the new fiscal year that starts October 1.

These hearings generate little interest, especially when no increase in ad valorem tax millage is expected, and that’s true for each of the three public hearings scheduled tonight and next week by the Town of Como, City of Batesville and Panola County. (The City of Sardis’ hearing was held last Friday. No ad valorem millage increase is planned for its budget either.)

But holding the line on ad valorem tax millage is not the only criteria by which we should a budget. The money to operate these governments must come from somewhere. It is the public’s responsibility to learn from where, and that is the reason the hearings are mandated by law.

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Como citizens will have the opportunity to comment and ask questions about their town’s budget starting at 5:30 p.m. today at the Como library. Copies of the proposed budget will be available prior to the meeting at City Hall.

Likewise, Batesville citizens will have that opportunity to review and comment this afternoon starting at 6 p.m. At Batesville City Hall. Copies of that budget will be available for review prior to the meeting from the office of the City Clerk. Copies will also be distributed during the meeting.

The opportunity to ask questions and offer comments on Panola County’s budget will come Monday, September 14 at 11 a.m. at the Batesville courthouse.

Perhaps if the dates when taxes are due during January and when budgets are reviewed and adopted in September were closer together, there would be more interest, but these dates are set by state law and there’s little we can do to change them.

Just remember, when you get your tax bill in December, you can complain all you want to the tax collector and his staff, but you will be talking too late and to the wrong people. The time is now, during these public hearings. The right people are your elected officials — mayors, aldermen and supervisors — whose job at these public hearings is to help us, the public, understand why they need our tax money and how they plan to use it.