Proposed $36M county budget to raise millage rate

Published 6:00 am Monday, August 21, 2017

The Warren County Board of Supervisors is proposing a $36.18 million fiscal year general fund budget for 2018 featuring a 3.11 mill increase in property taxes and a projected fund balance of $5,000.

The proposed budget will be presented to the public at a hearing Sept. 5 at 9 a.m. in the boardroom on the third floor of the Warren County Courthouse.

Under state law, the budget must be approved by Sept. 15. The 2018 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The millage increase, County Administrator John Smith said, will amount to a $31.10 increase in the property taxes on a $100,000 house.

“We’re having to increase the millage to be able to afford to do what we do,” Smith said.

One reason for the increase is a decision to remove the county’s gaming revenue from the general fund and put it in a special fund for roadwork.

“Before, we spread the gaming money around to the departments,” Smith said. “This year, we’re not going to do that. We are going to take that money and use it solely for roads — paving and striping. It will give the board $2.55 million for roads.”

Another reason for the increase is health insurance, which Smith said is the county’s biggest single expense.

Like the city of Vicksburg, Warren County has a self-insured health plan. And Smith said it is expected to cost the county $3.1 million this year to continue coverage.

“Insurance is a problem. Seven out of the last eight years since 2008 I’ve had a problem with health insurance. It’s a continuous problem.”

Another large budget item is $4.19 million for the Warren County Sheriff’s Office for vehicles and equipment and to purchase a metal detector for the courthouse and hire two bailiffs to man it. The county will also be paying more to Vicksburg for ambulance service in the county.

Under an agreement with the city, the county will pay $400 per run for each run a Vicksburg Fire Department ambulance makes in the county and pay half the cost of the runs made by the fire department’s rescue unit.

Also in the budget are two short-term loans totaling $2.6 million — $1.4 million for capital improvements and $1.2 million to purchase property for the new jail. Smith said .6 mills of the 3.11 mill levy is for debt service on the loans.

“We have projects that have to be done,” he said. “We need to restructure the roof on the library and replace the chiller (for its air conditioning system); and there are repairs to the elevators at the courthouse, the library and the jail. The jail elevator is critical.”

Besides the building repairs, the county must upgrade the pavilion at Cedar Creek golf course to make it and its restrooms handicap-accessible, and pay its portion of repairs to an erosion problem at Riverfront Park.

Water undercutting the soil on the bluff overlooking the river caused a slide that threatened the park’s walking trail and a play area. The cost of the repair is estimated at between $300,000 to $350,000, and the city has asked the board to pay part of an estimated $45,000 cost to resurface the park’s three play areas.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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