Warren County budget to face public scrutiny Tuesday

Published 3:26 pm Monday, September 2, 2019

Warren County Board of Supervisors will present their $36.8 million fiscal 2020 budget to area residents Tuesday during a morning public hearing.

The supervisors will hold the public hearing on the budget at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the board meeting room on the third floor of the Warren County Courthouse.

The proposed millage for the 2020 fiscal year is 117.77 mills, a total of 10.92 mills more than the 106.85 mills the board approved for fiscal 2019.

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“We’re going to have less revenue going into next year (fiscal 2020) versus next year, $18.72 million in revenue (for the general fund),” County Administrator John Smith said when he presented the budget to the supervisors Monday. “Most of that is taxes. You get most of your money through property tax.”

Smith said the county’s operating millage is increased by .80-mills, from 30.43 mills to 31.23 mills.

The total general county millage is 49.15 mills, which includes millage for roads, Hinds Community College, and other funds.

The county millage increase is the result of a transfer of money from the county road fund into the general fund to make up for the loss of revenue from the state Department of Revenue’s devaluation of Entergy’s Baxter Wilson power plant.

The increase, however, is offset by a .80 decrease in the county road millage, from 7.68 to 6.88.

The school district millage comprises the bulk of the overall millage increase, with a total increase of 10.92 mills — 9.36 mills to help pay off the school district’s bond issue, and 1.56 mills for the school district’s general operations.

The Vicksburg Warren School District’s millage is 68.62 mills, up from 57.7 mills for fiscal 2019.

The 9.36 mills meets the school district’s request for $7.58 million to pay off the current note on the bond issue for the draw of money from the $83 million general obligation bonds county voters approved in March for facilities upgrades.

In another budget matter, Smith said the Warren County Port Commission’s budget totals $2.039 million with $3.072 million in expenses.

A portion of the commission’s revenues include a $294,605 Mississippi Department of Transportation grant for upgrades at a port warehouse.

Expenses include $473,600 in Mississippi Development Authority grant funds and local matching funds, for a study and design for a new access road to Ceres, $300,000 for upgrades to the industrial park’s 300,000-gallon water tank, and $850,000 for repairs and upgrades to the park’s sewer lagoon.

Money for the lagoon upgrades will come from a combination of the remaining money from the Love’s property, money from the pending sale of another property in the park and available commission funds.

The water tank upgrades will bring it to state Health Department standards and allow the Culkin Water District to take over the park’s water system.

Board of Supervisors President Richard George said the water tank and the lagoon are priorities.

“We voted at our last meeting to deal with the water tank certification, which fulfills our memorandum of understanding we had with Culkin that we signed back in 2014, that we would do that and they would assume ownership of the lines and the tank system” George said.

“We were never able to get any grant funds to address the situation, and now that we have been able to actually sell some property for cash money, there’s no reason not to bring that to a culmination and cure a problem that could have grown into a much more serious problem,” he said.

Without certification, he said, the county’s ability to provide water would be at risk, and affect Tyson, a major food producer that uses a large amount of water.

“There’s no use in playing with fire,” George said. “We have the assets and it’s time to eliminate one problem.”

If the sewer lagoon fails to function properly, he said, it affects the entire park.

“The lagoon is a lot better now than it has been, but we need to finish the process and be able to be prepared for the future as we should be.”

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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