County to start budget talks

Published 11:24 am Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Funding Warren County government in 2014-15 starts in earnest later this week with the first of three meetings on the budget.

Supervisors and County Administrator John Smith sit down at 8:30 a.m. Friday to talk strategy in the rear conference room of the board’s Jackson Street headquarters. Smith said he’ll plan another set of meetings with Road Manager Buddy Poole and Sheriff Martin Pace, likely next Thursday and Friday. Sessions on those days are expected to be at 8:30 a.m.

The board is expected to adopt a budget by Sept. 2 for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

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This year’s $15 million budget contained no raises in base pay for entry-level sheriff’s deputies, for which Pace had lobbied in negotiations last summer. The board had asked Pace to cut unfunded positions in order to spread the money to the lowest-paid deputies. When the finished document was adopted in September, it factored in cuts in appraisals for seven of 18 entities that had formally objected to their property values. The move provided an out for supervisors looking to cut spending in light of barely-measurable growth.

Taxpayers have a shorter time frame to submit formal objections to values placed on property declared equalized on rolls examined through last Thursday. Traditionally, the time period to do so is closer to 30 days. However, the first Monday in July didn’t occur until July 7, which constricted the calendar for budgeting. In a legal ad Monday, the board cited part of state law that says counties must finish equalizing the rolls at least 10 days before the first August meeting and set an Aug. 4 date to hear objections.

Property taxes were a $4 higher for every $100,000 of assessed value this year compared to last year. It factored in more money requested from the public school system and up to 2 more mills for the county’s four volunteer fire districts. The prospects for another higher request for schools became greater in June, when the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees OK’d 2 additional mills to cover a $4.78 million deficit. School trustees are expected to deliver their request to supervisors in August.