No room for fat, county says on first day of budget talks|[07/30/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Warren County Board of Supervisors kicked off budget discussions Tuesday, and it was clear from the outset that the stagnant economy and inflated gas prices will not allow the board to grant many departments additional monies requested over last year’s budget.

“This budget is not going to be a Christmas tree. There’s not going to be any presents underneath,” said Board President Richard George. “We could get into a hell of a fix if we’re not careful. We just can’t afford to take on anything new.”

The budget discussions will continue throughout the week, with a public hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 2. The county will adopt the budget and set millage rates after the public hearing.

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Of the departments and organizations asking for an increase, the board singled out four Tuesday they agreed should receive additional funding – the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, Keep Vicksburg-Warren County Beautiful, Warren County Soil Conservation District and the county’s six volunteer fire departments.

This week, the board is expected to discuss the road, bridge and culvert department and others that may require additional funding. All told, the county is being asked to shell out $516,471 more than last year, during which the county operated on a budget of $15,278,503.

The sheriff’s department is asking for more than half the increases. The department’s request for approximately $3.58 million in funding is an increase of roughly $290,000 from the year previous. The request states the extra money is necessary for additional gas costs, new positions and overtime. Sheriff Martin Pace is expected to meet with the board during budget discussions later this week.

Keep Vicksburg-Warren County Beautiful is asking for $10,000 – twice what they have received from the county in years past. The Soil Conservation District is asking for an additional $8,000 over the approximately $83,000 they were earmarked in last year’s budget. The volunteer fire departments received $102,000 last year, and asked for the same this year. However, County Administrator John Smith said they will undoubtedly need more money in next year’s budget for gas.

“I’ve recommended level funding for everyone this year,” said Smith. “The only increases we can really afford to pay for are the gas increases.”