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Local budgets set; taxes will take dip

[09/03/03] Supervisors set a spending plan Tuesday that, when coupled with public school and City of Vicksburg assessments, will save the owner of a $100,000 home $7 during 2004.

Warren County and city boards left tax rates level. It was in funding the amount requested by schools that the slight cut in tax rates occurred.

All three entities expect more revenue from local taxpayers this year, but due to inflation, new construction and higher values not higher rates. Only Vicksburg’s spending plan is down, and that’s due to less reliance on reserves and higher rates for utilities.

Overall. the spending plan for the year starting Oct. 1 adopted Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors calls for total expenditures of a little more than $29.4 million.

Adoption came after a required hearing at which no one spoke. District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon cast the lone dissenting vote, saying the plan is unfair to municipal taxpayers. The board then voted unanimously to adopt the 80.59 millage rate needed to fund the budget.

Also Tuesday, the Mayor and Aldermen approved a $27.2 million FY 2004 budget and a millage rate of 35.88 mills.

Owners of property within the city limits pay both city and county taxes with a combined millage rate of 116.47.

In presenting the county budget, County Administrator Rick Polk said the budget is essentially the same as this year with the exception of 3 percent raises for county employees and cost of employee benefit packages.

The total budget is $29,416,888, up from this year’s $28,987,135.

“This budget reflects our efforts to adjust the county services funding at a level that the taxpayers can afford,” said Richard George, board president and District 5 supervisor.

Selmon’s district lies within the city limits, and he said more county money, paid in by city residents, should be spent on work inside the city. He said the bayous that drain the city are in need of work.

“The budgeting process is not fair to all the city residents,” Selmon said.

In breaking down the budget, the spending for general county government is down slightly from $6,361,298 to $6,052,127.

Public safety rose from $6,513,498 to $6,705,909 and includes the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, the Warren County Jail and the Youth Detention Center.

The spending for public works is about the same with $8,703,369 in the previous budget and $8,768,128 in the new one.

The line item for economic development and assistance rose from $1,490,759 to $1,986,026 as one of the higher increases in the budget.

Polk said the board made a number of allocations from the money it anticipates from the county’s share of the gaming taxes. These include: $500,000 for maintenance of buildings and grounds; $194,000 to the sheriff’s department for vehicles and equipment; $12,000 for a grant to the Mississippi National Guard; $40,000 for flood buyouts if there are any; $1,289,000 for roads; $50,000 for mosquito control, $120,000 for the Vicksburg Warren County Humane Society; $40,000 for the children’s shelter; $200,000 for the county park commission and $25,000 to advertise community assets.

The schools’ budget, set in June, totals $59.5 million, of which 33 percent is from local taxes.