County’s taxes up in coming budget

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 3, 2004

[8/27/04]Warren County supervisors will impose an increase in property tax rates this year and are citing raises ordered by the Mississippi Legislature but not funded as the prime reason.

The proposed General Fund budget for Fiscal 2005, which starts Oct. 1, will rise by nearly $780,000.

Part of the new money, if the budget is adopted as planned, will come from a .94-mill increase in taxes collected countywide on land, buildings and personal property including vehicles.

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As an example of the impact, the owner of a house in Warren County outside Vicksburg with a true value of $100,000 who also receives homestead exemption, will see the tax bill rise by $9.40, from $505.90 to $515.30 for county and school levies. Homes in the corporate limits would have city taxes, not expected to rise, added.

The new budget, which supervisors will vote on when they meet Sept. 7, calls for the county to spend $11,952,802 for the general fund compared to the $11,157,927 allocated for the general fund for FY 2004.

Lawmakers ordered raises for county tax assessors and collectors, the chancery and circuit clerks, the sheriff, justice court judges, court reporters, constables and the county prosecuting attorney. In Warren County, those raises and the fringe benefits will add $225,887 to the budget for salaries.

The law made raises for members of boards of supervisors optional. In Warren County, supervisors have agreed in an informal meeting not to accept the raises that would have added another $43,186 to the budget.

Other increases that added to the necessity to raise the millage rate were a $211,000 increase in the cost of liability and health insurance, $50,000 paid to the City of Vicksburg for ambulance service and $28,000 for health insurance for the constables and election commissioners, said County Administrator Rick Polk.

“The outside agencies (such as the children’s shelter and others) are exactly the same as last year,” he said.

Some of the major changes in department budgets for FY 2005 include an additional $132,027 for circuit court; $71,353 for county court; and $142,279 for the sheriff’s department.

Polk pointed out the Youth Detention Center budget dropped by $72,500 because Warren County Youth Court Judge Johnny Price took over its operation and money to pay some of the employees was transferred back to the sheriff’s department.

Added to the general fund for FY 2005 were $120,000 for the Vicksburg Warren County Humane Society for animal control services and $65,000 for mosquito control. Previously, those items had been funded from the county’s 25 percent share of the 3.2 percent local taxes imposed on the gambling casinos.

Set aside from the proceeds of the local gambling tax will be $40,000 for advertising county assets. Supervisors will vote on a case-by-case basis on expenditures recommended by the Vicksburg Warren County Community Alliance.

The Legislature also ordered 8 percent raises for public school teachers, a move that increased the Vicksburg Warren School District budget to a record $72 million. State money is covering most but not all of that increase. School trustees, who start their fiscal year July 1, adopted a budget absorbing the balance from reserves.