City, county to adopt budgets for new fiscal year Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 1, 2008

Budgets for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 will be adopted by the Warren County Board of Supervisors and the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday. The county supervisors will hold a 9 a.m. public hearing before adopting a budget that is expected include a hike in property taxes, while the city has already held a public hearing and is not proposing additional taxes.

City officials unveiled on Aug. 21 a $31.5 million budget, which includes level funding for most departments compared with the operating budget for this fiscal year. Exceptions include the police and fire departments, which will require additional administrative spending due to 3 percent raises approved this summer, as well as $400,000 for the purchase of up to 14 police cruisers.

Fire Chief Keith Rogers had requested $1 million for a new fire engine, but Mayor Laurence Leyens said such major purchases will have to be put on hold unless the city comes up with additional, unexpected revenue.

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“Our budget is a living document,” Leyens has said. “We’re committed to doing budget amendments at every meeting if we have to. Until we know we have more revenue coming in, we’re not going to be signing off on any major purchases.”

If you go

A public hearing on the proposed Warren County budget will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday on the third floor of the Warren County Courthouse on Cherry Street. The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen will adopt its budget at a 10 a.m. meeting Tuesday in the City Hall Annex on Walnut Street.

Revenues are virtually unchanged over last year, as city budget planners have counted carryovers in individual departments as revenue.

Warren County is expected to adopt an increase in tax rates equaling 3.05 mills as part of a $15.7 million spending plan for fiscal 2008-09. It will raise tax bills about $30 for every $100,000 in assessed value. Limited growth from tax rolls drove the decision, as property values rose just half a percent in this year’s reassessments.

The extra revenue stems largely from a 2.7-mill hike in the road fund and is aimed at directing more funding for fuel and pay raises through promotions. Overtime for sheriff’s deputies and the first round of planning for a new Warren County Jail are other key additions to county spending this year.

Infrastructure improvements such as replacing the courthouse roof and carpeting the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library will be put off at least another year.

One expense likely to be delayed is a state-permitted raise for the county prosecutor, a raise that would raise the post’s annual salary from $44,812 to more that $90,000. Surrounding governments have approved the raise in their operating budgets.

Sharkey and Claiborne have passed millage increases of 2.25 and 5 mills, respectively, with both citing general fund spending and decreases in value from ad valorem tax dollars as reasons. Municipal taxes in Rolling Fork will rise by 5 mills, with officials there citing a high rate of homestead exemptions as a driving force behind the move. However, 7 percent pay raises for city employees, aldermen and the mayor are also included in the city budget.