County looks to cut allocations 50 percent

Published 12:30 pm Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More money Warren County had collected in taxes specially earmarked for charitable purposes stands to be trimmed as supervisors work to bring this year’s spending in line with this year’s revenue.

Remaining allocations for fiscal 2010 to 13 nonprofits and other groups would be cut 50 percent in the most recent plan discussed Monday. Nine organizations whose primary mission is charity had public funding cut 10 percent to start the year.

“It’s terrible to sit here and say, ‘Which one is most important?’,” Board President Richard George said. “They all have worked hard, made a good-faith effort and had an impact. We’ve not funded anything that hasn’t helped this community. The money has just dried up on us.”

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Usually, private donations fund charities and it is illegal to impose taxes for supervisors to transfer purely as donations. Several years ago, supervisors here started seeking special legislative acts annually to make donations.

We Care Community Services, among the agencies receiving county checks, has survived this year on dwindling funds and awaits its $11,250 supplement from the county. At We Care, two or three volunteers continue to make food boxes “on any given day” for those in need, agency director Rose Bingham said.

“We all know the situation with the economy,” Bingham said. “We have seen increased numbers of people needing us.”

Weekly GED classes continue despite funding lost when Hinds Community College moved the program in-house, and a summer reading program geared to elementary school children is set to continue, Bingham said. We Care’s membership with the Jackson-based Mississippi Food Network — another charity funded locally and under the budget knife — is a positive, as canned meats and vegetables are available for the poor, Bingham said.

“Our organization appreciates what we get,” Bingham said.

After starting with a $15 million spending plan, Warren County still needs to cut $350,000 to $375,000 from an array of expenditures to balance the budget going into 2010-11 — and cuts to outside agencies will account for about a third of it, County Administrator John Smith said Monday, adding a “candid review” of outside agency funding is needed to figure out how much to cut and if some needed to be dropped completely.

The additional cuts are set to take effect in June. Spared from the planned cuts are groups involved in emergency response, vital health services or sheltering, such as the Vicksburg Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, Warren-Yazoo Mental Health Service and the Warren County Children’s Shelter.

Warren County and Vicksburg operate on fiscal years that start each Oct. 1, meaning budget-setting for the coming year is fast approaching. Both local governments reduced their spending plans this year in anticipation of lower revenues due to the national recession. Neither increased tax rates for this year. The City of Vicksburg has not made specific additional cuts.

County adjustments are being coupled with justice system costs, particularly indigent defense, as items supervisors most want to curb next year. Cuts to departments and agencies will make furloughs less likely for the county’s roughly 285 employees, supervisors said.