Charities to lose 10 percent of funding from county

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 20, 2009

Charitable organizations that have been getting money from Warren County tax funds will be cut by 10 percent, supervisors decided Thursday.

A dozen local nonprofits each will receive less as legislatively approved donations are trimmed from $167,500 to $150,750.

The donations are rare and were unusual until the past few years. State law doesn’t allow entities with the power to tax to, in turn, make charitable gifts of public money, but the Warren County board has been obtaining permission yearly through local and private legislation.

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Cities and counties can legally provide money in exchange for services, such as payments made here to the Vicksburg-Warren Humane Society to provide animal control services.

The planned cuts in charitable giving are a first step in across-the-board budget cuts announced earlier this month. Individual department cuts have not been detailed, but all are expected to be cut by year’s end.

Cuts in public donations may lead to staffing and capacity shortages for most of the organizations on the list, which includes United Way, Boys & Girls Club and Keep Vicksburg-Warren Beautiful.

Barbara Tolliver, United Way of West Central Mississippi executive director, said the cuts were expected but was relieved supervisors kept cuts on the lower end of predicted amounts. Earlier projections had nonprofits losing up to 12 percent.

“The nonprofits have tightened the belt to where they can’t tighten it any more,” Tolliver said. “But we’ll get through it.” Tolliver has said corporate contributions were down this year, but individuals have pledged more money than in years past. 

Revenue shortages in areas such as car tag sales and homestead exemption reimbursements have been reported, County Administrator John Smith said. Car tag sales are short about $28,000 over last year, according to forecasts from the Tax Collector’s Office. Applications for homestead exemptions were up slightly in 2008, to 11,416 from 11,359 in 2007 — meaning the county lost more property tax revenue on the front end but will be reimbursed more from the state. Smith said he expects $570,870 in state reimbursements by March 1, up from $567,350 for the same cycle last year.

Cuts have not been ruled out in other, irregularly occurring areas such as employee travel to educational conventions and seminars.

A Mississippi Association of Supervisors’ conference set for June in Biloxi came up as the board mulled options Thursday. As is the case with similar conferences involving elected officials in the courthouse and even the coroner, lodging and meal expenses are usually paid for out of county funds. Even if a private car is their vehicle of choice for an out-of-town trip instead of a county truck, supervisors usually file for reimbursement if they pay for fuel.

The board couldn’t settle on who would attend the upcoming MAS meeting or if any similar excursions should be cut from their schedules.

“The whole idea of going is to learn something,” District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon said in defense of the trips.

District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale, who held a variety of liaison-like positions with state and national groups during his previous terms on the board, said each trip should be looked at case-by-case to see if it warrants participation.

“If it’s just educational, it’s something we can cut,” Lauderdale said.

Changes in county spending are likely for the health insurance fund, which officials have said has been hit with an unusually high number of claims for major illnesses this year, totaling $529,500 as of Jan. 21. The gaming fund has been tapped to take up the slack, despite running about $20,000 behind budget projections.

In September, the supervisors OK’d a $15.7M spending plan for this fiscal year that included the first increase in tax rates in three years, up by 2.79 mills over last year. Most of the money comes from property taxes.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at