Thursday, May 17, 2012
Stagnant bond bill affects county
By SUE WATSON
About $1.3 million in the 2011 Legislative year bond bill, needed to provide sewer and related infrastructure upgrades in the northern portion of Marshall County, is, in effect, still locked down.
Gary Anderson, consultant to the board of supervisors, said the failure of the Legislature to pass a bond bill and the failure of the county to get language into a bill that was approved last year leaves the search for funds to build a sewer system in the Highway 72/Cayce Road area up in the air another year.
The 2012 session ended with no bond bill, because of concern by legislators over how to address long-term debt.
Anderson and Senator Bill Stone discussed the matter recently with the board of supervisors.
“It is disappointing we had no bond issue,” Anderson said. “We needed revenues for the industrial park. The people in the House and Senate are committed to help out, but we have no bond bill where the county’s language could be inserted (as line items) to do things.”
He said he expects a special session to address bonds to be called at a later date this year.
Anderson said the DIP program (Development Infrastructure Grant Program), set by the Legislature last year, had $5 million in it for Mississippi Development Authority use and another $2.6 million with no defining language. The money is just sitting there, he said.
“We wanted to go back to put language earmarking $1.3 million (in the 2011 bond bill) for Marshall County, which the House and Senate said they would support, but the House and Senate could not agree on other projects, many of them still sitting there because the defining language is not there.”
Stone joined Anderson to discuss the issue.
“Some people in MDA are trying to use that money for other things and we hope defining language is there so we get another shot at it,” he said.
Anderson explained that most state agencies were funded at last year’s budget level. Some things were short a little, like Homestead Exemption and $20 million for bridges (LSBP funds), he said. The House and Senate were agreeable to that.
Stone said he understood the $20 million was to be included in the State Aid appropriation but ultimately was not.
Anderson said the Senate side, “held a strangle hold on the bond bill, so the lieutenant governor will have a lot of influence, ultimately.
Anderson added that the Senate leadership’s intent was to pay for some work with cash rather than borrowing with bonds. Other projects would simply not get done.
“They identified $50 million to use for special projects,” he said. “It takes a little analysis, dealing with IHL (colleges and universities) and state agencies that want to renovate buildings – to identify those that will be financed with cash.”
Anderson said that could be clarified this fall.
Stone said he understands the concept of paying as you go, but with interest rates at less than 2 percent, the cost to finance would be negligible when inflation (increasing costs of labor and materials) is factored in. He said some $268 million in existing bonds is to be paid off this year. When the House plan came to conference at about a $400 million request for bonds, the Senate bolted. The Senate’s plan was for about $120 million, including about $50 million in direct appropriations and the rest in bonds.
Supervisors voted at this meeting to authorize Marshall County Industrial Development Authority to set sewer rates. Marshall Utility Services is owned through a public/private partnership with Marshall County IDA holding the majority share at 50.25 percent.
In other business, supervisor Keith Taylor made a motion to charge commercial rates for taxes as soon as a property is rezoned commercial, if it is legal to do it. The tax office waits until a property is put to commercial use before raising the taxes from agricultural to commercial tax rates. Taylor’s motion passed by unanimous vote.
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