Thursday, September 7, 2006
County millage likely to stay same
By SUE WATSON
The Marshall County Board of Supervisors does not expect to have to raise property taxes this year in any category, according to chancery clerk Chuck Thomas.
He said all department heads stayed within their budgets without any noticeable decrease in services this current budget year.
“I want to thank the department heads for staying within budget this year, because we have seen a tremendous increase in costs this year, especially fuel prices,” Thomas said.
With the 2007 budget in the planning stage, and a 3.5 percent projected increase in tax revenue related to growth, the 2007 budget is expected to remain close to what it was in 2006, Thomas said.
The projected growth in the tax base for the 2007 year would likely have been larger than 3.5 percent had there not been tax exemptions provided at the state level on categories such as the timber industry and government subsidized housing projects and property annexed by a municipality.
“While county leaders certainly are hoping for higher tax revenues, we find some satisfaction that, with the rising costs and continually changing economic factors, we are still able to experience some growth of our tax base,” Thomas said.
“The board of supervisors is determined not to raise taxes this year. Because of this, many of the budget requests made by department heads and from organizations and other government entities, cannot be approved. The board has worked very hard to take that 3.5 percent projected increase in tax revenue and apply it to the areas most needed to cover the increased costs and produce a balanced budget without an increase in the millage rate.”
The expected 3.5 percent increase in tax revenues will bring in approximately $350,000 more in taxes than last year, Thomas said.
He said no major cutbacks in services will be made and no services will discontinued.
The total county tax revenue anticipated in 2007 comes to about $6.7 million, Thomas said. The total budget with state and federal dollars added will be close to $20 million, about what it was last year, he said.
What’s new in this year’s budget, he said, is the allocation of some extra dollars to line items that are directly affected by the uncertainty in fuel costs or the increase in cost of materials due to pressures in the oil market.
The board has budgeted $800,000 this year to provide more room for courts and records.
That allocation is due in the main to the addition of a new district judge position beginning January 2007, and due to and existing shortage of space for holding proceedings of chancery and circuit courts at times as well as an acute shortage of space for storage of records, Thomas said.
Circuit clerk Lucy Carpenter said her office will need some additional dollars budgeted for court expenses to pay for extra days in court and more juries. No new equipment is needed, she said.
“Of course, we are getting a new judge and the days in court would have to increase,” she said. “Our judges have requested 10 weeks of additional court to the eight weeks already provided for to clear the docket.
“Judge Howorth has said there may be grant monies for drug court. The main thing he wants is additional court space.”
“Keep the county leaders in your prayers as we all work together to move our county forward,” Thomas said.
Other budget requests by department include the following:
Tax Collector’s Office
Tax collector Betty Byrd said her budget will stay as it is unless the board of supervisors wants to keep the tax collector’s office in Byhalia open full time.
“I will need one more full-time clerk position, if we keep that office open full-time,” she said.
She added that the citizens in the Byhalia area are pleased to have a tax office, sheriff’s substation and ambulance service quarters in the Byhalia and Barton area.
“They are so pleased, they just bring us snacks,” Byrd said.
The Byhalia tax office is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Tax Assessor’s Office
Ronnie Johnson, tax assessor, said he has asked for a new position for a field appraiser because state tax commission standards were beefed up by the legislature.
“I have one appraiser to look after about 24,000 parcels,” he said.
He said he needs more help to meet new standards which include close physical inspection of 25 percent of the parcels a year; close inspection and reevaluation of every parcel every four years; and new aerial photography of the entire county every 10 years.
Kenny Dickerson said his department is asking for only a small increase in its budget this year even though the department needs extra equipment and officers to keep up with the population growth taking place.
He said he operated the jail and his department very conservatively this year, even with the increase in fuel and other operational costs, and was able to roll-over some dollars he had left his current fiscal year (2005-06) budget to fiscal year 2006-07. With that savings going back in to the general fund, he will not have to ask for any portion of the anticipated $350,000 in new tax revenues, he said.
“I have just a small increase in my budget, not that I don’t need a lot more in terms of vehicles and officers,” he said. “But, I’m trying to work with the supervisors to try and keep taxes from going up. I’ve been extra conservative with my budget this year.
“With the additional growth we’ve had in population we’ve had in the last five years, we have a larger volume of calls and more warrants and papers to serve which takes extra manpower and resources. And we’ve added school officers and have to address homeland security needs. All that costs money. As of now, we’re having to absorb that out of our budget, too.”
He said money is well spent on school resource officers and education which “ultimately reduces the total number that ultimately end up our here in prison.”
Zoning, E-911, Building and Grounds
Conway Moore, zoning director, said her department requested no increases, but asked for another pickup for her workers to drive to make inspections and cover complaints.
E-911 director Jimmye Dale Green said he has asked for no new positions or equipment. Any new equipment will be purchased with grant money, he said.
Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Hugh Hollowell said he has asked for nothing significant in his budget except for some help with renovations of space in the old city jail where he wants to move his office and equipment.
No information was available at press time on budget requests for other departments.
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