County adopts 2019 $36.7 million budget

Published 7:30 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Warren County Board of Supervisors adopted its fiscal year budget that begins Oct. 1, during their regular Monday meeting at the Warren County Courthouse, and there will be a tax increase for residents.

During a public hearing prior to the budget adoption, county administrator John Smith, who presented the budget, said the operating budget for the county increased from $36,184,654 during fiscal year 2018 to a projected revenue budget of $36,717,567 in fiscal year 2019. Of this amount, $25,692,711 will be financed through an ad valorem tax levy.

No one from the public spoke about the proposed budget during the public hearing.

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Smith also informed the board of a millage increase of 3.79 mills, from 103.06 mills to 106.85 mills, which means residents will pay more in ad valorem taxes on their home, automobile tag, utilities, business fixtures and equipment, and rental real property.

The 3.79 millage increase is due to the request from the Vicksburg Warren School District for its debt service needs on the draw of $35 million from the $83 million general obligation bond county voters approved in March for facilities upgrades.

“This is a debt of the Vicksburg Warren School District and not the county,” Smith said. “By law, the board of supervisors set the necessary millage rate to raise the needed funds for the school district. Because of this debt, the supervisors must raise the millage to meet the demands of the school board.”

This will equate to a $37.90 increase in taxes on a $100,000 home.

Reassessment of property in 2018 remains with an index of 103, which resulted in no increase in value and no millage change in the rates.

Assessed valuations for Warren County will be $547,906,027 for FY2019, compared to $528,549,040 for FY2018. This is a debt increase in assessments of $19,356,987. Smith said the increase in assessments is due to an error he made last year in calculating the in lieu taxes on the Ergon Refinery.

“Real property increased by $13.365 million and this is due to the error on Ergon,” Smith said.

Personal property increased $3,771,000 from $92,274,305 for FY2018 to $96,046,234 for FY2019.

The tax levy for each function of county government indicates VWSD will see an increase from 52.31 cents out of every tax dollar to 54.00, while funds for roads, debt service, junior college, library and general county declined.

“Because the millage rate is going to go up because of the school system, everyone’s cents per dollar distributed to each function of government went down and the schools went up,” Smith said.

In the general fund, Smith said revenues for FY2019 are proposed to be $18.521 million as compared to $17.917 million for FY2018, an increase of $604,351.

Major highlights of expenses are a pay plan within the Warren County Sheriff’s Department to make it “competitive and attract quality law enforcement officers with a starting pay for certified officers,” Smith said.

Hourly rates of pay for jailers also increased $1 per hour.

Retirement expenses are also rising next year due to the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) increasing employer share from 15.75 percent to 17.4 percent.

Gaming revenue is expected to increase by about $300,000 and will continue to be used to pave roads, according to Smith.

“Gaming revenues remain stagnant, but it is sound philosophy to use gaming to pave roads without going into debt,” Smith said.

Board President Richard George said it’s unfortunate, but necessary for the millage rate to increase.

“The unfortunate side of needing to make improvements to facilities costs the taxpayers to have those improvements,” George said. “Business has just not caught up to our need for improvement at this time and that results in a tax increase. Hopefully the investment in education and industrial economic development will offset it at some point. That’s our hope.”