City and county boards working to finalize budgets

Published 8:36 pm Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen hold hearings Thursday to begin the process of preparing the city’s operating budget for fiscal 2019.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors’ budget hearings are wrapping up as they try to reach a formula that will allow them to approve a budget showing a fund balance at the end of the year or at least break even.

Budget hearings are an annual process for local governments, and every year the challenge to get a balanced budget or one that will end the year with a some money left over gets harder and harder as public officials, like the rest of us, deal with the rising cost of living.

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And the challenge is different for city and county governments. Cities deal with two major revenue sources, sales and property taxes, which are dependent in some part on the nation’s economy. If retail sales are bad because of inflation or a recession, sales tax revenues will be down. If property values are reduced, the property tax revenues are down.

County governments have one major source of revenue — property taxes. And while there have been past attempts in the Legislature to let counties share in the sales tax revenues, all have failed, which means counties don’t have that extra revenue stream like the cities, putting a little more of a handicap when it comes to a board of supervisors’ attempts to balance an annual budget.

But regardless of who has how many revenue sources, a downturn in the economy can have a very serious effect what cities and counties are able to do. Meeting that challenge of a balanced budget means a road may not get paved one year, or the planned renovations to a park or a public building are put aside for lack of funds.

We can be thankful in Vicksburg and Warren County that both our county and our city governments have been careful with the taxpayers’ money and been careful with how they spend what they spend our money on. It’s that care that has allowed then to stay strong in tight economic times.

And as our two boards debate how much will be spent where, we hope they will continue using good judgment in the decisions that will affect the county and the city financially for the next fiscal year.