Budgets Doing more with less

Published 1:02 am Sunday, September 18, 2011

Finding ways to do more with less is today’s reality, and we are as pleased as punch that Warren County and Vicksburg officials have set next year’s operating budgets without tax increases.

The budgets for the city and county each will be a bit smaller than last year — the fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, and the budgets passed will be for fiscal year 2012. There are cuts to services in both the county and city, but the absence of tax increases and employee layoffs is a positive indicator.

In the city:

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• On a 3-0 vote, officials passed a $28.79 million budget, down about $1.25 million from last year. Lower property tax revenues, sales tax revenues and lower gaming revenues have made purse-tightening necessary.

• Public safety will see slight increases. Fire and police services account for about 41 percent of the general fund and these services are necessary and should continue to be funded heavily.

• The solid waste budget has been reduced by $220,000 million, but city officials say a new contract with garbage hauler Waste Management allowed for the lower expenditures. Collections for individuals and small businesses will remain at $11.16 per month.

• Millage rates, the rate at which property taxes are assessed, will stay at 35.88, or $35.88 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

• The city is forecasting an almost $35,000 fund balance at the end of the fiscal year.

In the county:

• Pay raises, especially for Warren County deputies, were desperately needed. About 270 county employees, including deputies, will receive 3 percent pay increases. The deputies patrol 587 square miles of Warren County and the most competent law enforcement force is one that can attract the best officers.

• The county will use grant money to fund a second assistant district attorney’s position. The district attorney’s office handles cases in three counties and a second ADA was needed.

• The county forecast spending to be down by more than $121,000 and supervisors are forecasting a surplus, albeit a small one, at the end of the fiscal year. Surplus is a word not mentioned much when talking about budgets these days.

• Millage rates for the county and the Vicksburg Warren School District will remain steady at 40.53 and 46.2, respectively.

County and city officials, faced with the daunting task of crafting a budget in such uncertain economic times, did the people of Warren County well. The stewards of the public coffers are doing more with less — and not strapping the taxpayers with extra burdens.