Leyens says no to 70-30 split

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 26, 2002

[09/26/02]Vicksburg approved funding for the 911 dispatching center at a 70-30 split with Warren County for another 12 months on Wednesday over the objections of Mayor Laurence Leyens.

“This topic has been discussed with supervisors at every meeting we’ve had with them over the last 14 months,” Leyens said. “No one in 14 months has demonstrated to me, other than some outside reporting to the city and county, why the city should be supplementing the 911 budget.”

City officials unanimously approved interlocal agreements for tax collection and assessment, ambulance service outside the city limits and redemption of property sold for nonpayment of taxes, but Leyens dissented on the 911 agreement.

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Both aldermen said they agreed with Leyens, who has said the dispatching center should be funded entirely by the county, but voted for the split because it is in the best interest of the city.

“We have to do things sometimes as elected officials that we don’t necessarily agree with,” said South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman.

The combined dispatch service was authorized by voters in 1989 and its supplement from local tax dollars has been debated during several administrations since.

This year’s $840,107 spending plan required a $381,074 supplement because surcharges people pay on their phone bills don’t cover operations.

County officials have argued that because the majority of the calls for help come from city businesses and residents, the city should pay the majority of the cost. Leyens has argued that because city residents are also county residents and pay county taxes, they are being assessed twice for the same service received outside the municipal limits.

“I still don’t understand at all why we’re paying that money,” Leyens said.

City officials had offered a 63-37 split for the rest of the current administration after a third-party report concluded that there was no fair way to divide the deficit. The report, commissioned by the city, concluded that a 70-30 split was the best way to supplement 911, but also agreed that city taxpayers were being “double dipped.”

The split offered by the city would have made up the difference, Leyens said. County supervisors had approved the 70-30 split last week in a 3-2 vote saying they had already approved next year’s budget and would consider Leyens’ offer next year.

The difference would have left county officials about $26,000 short from budgeted amounts.

Leyens has said he has a problem with funding the full request because the 911 budget includes funding for the Warren County road-naming operation. According to state law, road naming can be included in the 911 budget if there are excess funds.

In the agreements, city and county officials agreed to a $6 per run increase in the rate charged to Warren County for ambulance calls, and city officials denied a request from Chancery Clerk Dot McGee for $10,000 for tax redemption services.

City officials said the request came in too late and after budgets had been set for the next year.

The interlocal agreements and the budgets for both local governments go into effect Tuesday when the new fiscal year starts.