Thursday, September 20, 2007
County OKs new budget
By SUE WATSON
The Marshall County Board of Supervisors adopted the fiscal year 2007-2008 budget Friday. The total dollar figure is $22.85 million, a projected increase of $1.167 million largely due to growth in the county, according to Chuck Thomas, chancery clerk.
The tax levy will raise about $12.8 million, he said. The remainder of the $22.82 million budget will come from state, federal and other sources.
“Unless a taypayer’s property value has increased, there will be no increase in his taxes,” Thomas said - that due to growth in the county’s valuation that offsets the increase in costs of services.
Some departments, the chancery clerk’s office and the emergency management office, saw several thousands of dollars in savings.
Some departments will get some much needed relief with the addition of employees in the new budget, Thomas said.
They are the circuit clerk’s office which gets another deputy clerk, the tax collector’s office which gets two more positions, and the tax assessor’s office which gets another deputy assessor.
Juvenile court will get another officer.
Due to public concern about vicious dogs, the county created a full-time and one part-time position for animal control. The budget for animal control will nearly double going from $53,000 to $103,012 - with this 24-hour coverage for animal control.
Northwest Community College will get $578,612 and $254,533 goes for fire protection. The county school district gets $3.7 million from 31.82 mils assessed to tax payers.
Expenditures on elections are down in the new budget by $81,696 because there will be no expenditure for election machines as last year.
Expenditures by department in the general fund will be mostly level with some departments having operating budgets greater than others because of the demand for service is greater.
The road and bridge fund will get about $29 out of every $100 collected in ad valorem taxes. The sheriff’s department will get about $22 dollars out of every $100 of revenue.
Building and grounds will get about $10 and custody of prisoners takes $11 out of every $100 collected. Sanitation gets about $7 for every $100 coming in. Enhanced 911 will get $3 dollars for every $100 collected.
The remaining dollars - approximately $18 out of every $100 of revenue, fund the other departments and budget items numbering over 40 spending categories.
NWCC and the county school district together accounts for 18.9 percent of the tax revenues collected.
The new positions in the tax collector’s office will allow the office at the substation in Byhalia to be open five days a week instead of two.
An additional full-time position at the tax assessor’s office was direly needed because all counties have to do property reappraisals next year. Juanita Dillard, who takes over as tax assessor in January, said she asked for and needs three new positions to do the reappraisals instead of one.
The judges had asked for increases for court workers from all the five counties served, Thomas said. And 911 dispatchers get salary increases in a move to help retain workers once they are trained, Thomas said.
There will also be money for home monitoring systems for juveniles, he said. The system saves counties monies because the juveniles do not have to be put in detention, he said.
Tax collector Betty Byrd said the two extra positions in her office will bring much needed relief for her staff and better service.
Her office has not added new staff positions in 20 years, she said.
“The two full-time positions in Byhalia will hopefully help reduce long lines and waiting in our Holly Springs office,” Byrd said. “Nobody likes to pay taxes and it makes it worse to wait in long lines to get service.”
On busy days customers have had to wait as long as an hour to buy a tag, she said.
Some days are busier than others. The first and middle of the month when payroll checks come in are busiest and the last day of the month when deadlines for paying taxes owed are busy.
The county’s population has grown and state regulations have increased tremendously as well.
In 2004 the tax collector’s office handled 58,000 money transactions and collected $17 million for the cities, the county or the state, Byrd said.
Last year her office handled 65,000 money transactions and collected $23 million for the cities, county or state.
That activity alone means that the tax office averages 1,256 weekly transactions or an average of 250 a day with just four people on the counter.
“Our people are having to wait on customers, answer the phone, give tag quotes, look up tax amounts, hand out voter registration forms and issue handicapped placards,” Byrd said. “So, our days are busy, busy.”
“I can’t make the price of taxes go down, but I want to provide the best tax service I can provide,” she said.
Sheriff Dickerson said his department’s increase of $436,000 is enough to hire two more deputies and purchase two more patrol cars - but some of the increase may have to be rolled into the jail.
The sheriff’s department’s annual budget is close to $2.4 million next fiscal year as opposed to $2 million last year. With the work load, this is and always has been, a no frills budget, he said.
“We certainly need much more than that due to the tremendous growth, particularly in the northern district, and the numbers of calls,” Dickerson said.
“Our increase in the number of calls, fuel costs, and operating costs in general are going up. It costs us as much to operate as everyone else. We’ve got to try to stay halfway in line with the service people expect from us.”
Marshall County has 15 uniformed officers and over twice the area to cover - 710 square miles - as DeSoto County, he said. By comparison DeSoto County has 60 uniformed officers, less than half the area to cover and the cities help out tremendously with patrolling, he said.
But DeSoto County’s tax base is much stronger than Marshall’s, he said, allowing them to have a larger force.
Dickerson said the substation in Byhalia is very important to the safety of the county due to its location where the county is seeing the fastest growth in population.
One receptionist there takes calls for the sheriff’s department and the fire service, he said. And investigators have a place to take care of business there as they are in the area a lot, Dickerson said.
The fiscal year 2007-2008 levy sheets will run in the legal section of The South Reporter in a few weeks.
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