County may get interest windfall

Staff Writer

Rising interest rates may be hurting some business sectors but those looking to increase their earnings are seeing a windfall.

That includes Clay County, which will see thousands of additional dollars in interest revenue during the next 24 months.

Monday, BankFirst earned the county’s deposits for the next two years with an interest rate of 2.81 percent, outbidding BancorpSouth at 2.57 percent, Renasant Bank at 2.53 percent and Cadence Bank at 1.85 percent.

The county currently receives .315 percent interest based on bids taken two years ago.
 Since then, interest rates on savings have risen slowly, mirroring increases in the prime rate and mortgages.

During peak times like now when property taxes are being paid, the county has between $7 million and $10 million in the bank.

In December, before the bulk of taxes start coming in, the amount hovers closer to $4 million, according to Chancery Court Clerk Amy Berry, who acts as the county’s finance officer.

If the county averaged $5 million in the bank, it would earn about $16,000 a year in interest at the old rate of .315 percent. At the new rate, it would earn about $142,000.

“That’s huge for the county,” Berry said of the new rate. “We only anticipated about $40,000 in interest in the budget. This will help build our rainy-day funds a little in case of emergencies or if we get some big grant that requires matching money.”

In other action Monday, Clay County supervisors:
— Elected District 3 Supervisor R.B. Davis as board president, replacing District 1 Supervisor Lynn Horton. District 2 Supervisor Luke Lummus was elected vice-president. Davis had been vice-president and the board traditionally rotates the presidency among members each year. Davis last served as president in 2016. Angela Turner-Ford was re-appointed as the board attorney and all county employees and department heads were rehired;

— Approved bids for major supplies, ranging from hot and cold mix to plastic and metal culverts. Despite a big drop in oil prices, the county’s asphalt price from the low bidder, APAC, remained steady at $75 a ton.
To avoid online bidding that could have taken business away from local and regional companies with whom the county has a relationship, the county is taking bids on a quarterly basis, meaning bids will be taken again in March for the April through June period.
Supervisor Shelton Deanes said he expects the asphalt price to be lower the next time around;

— Established its meeting calendar for the rest of the year, moving its first September meeting to the Tuesday after Labor Day and its Thanksgiving and Christmas meetings to the third Thursday rather than the fourth Thursday. The second meeting in July will be July 8. 
Supervisors also made Good Friday — April 19 — a holiday instead of Confederate Memorial Day — April 27.
— Approved a 10-year loan Mississippi Development Authority loan at 3 percent interest to finance a $258,600 fire truck. A $70,000 state grant will be used to pay part of the loan once the truck is received and paid for;

— Approved a resolution supporting legislation allowing rural electric cooperatives like 4-County Electric to provide Internet service in their service areas. Modeled after a similar move in Alabama, Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley has been pushing the initiative to improve service, lower costs through competition, and open up business and educational opportunities in rural areas. The Legislature is expected to take up the measure in the session that starts today;

— Learned installation of the county’s new MSWIN statewide radio system is nearing completion. “It’s a real game changer,” Sheriff Eddie Scott said of the improved communication deputies and other agencies already are seeing just with hand-held units;

— Approved Davis and Deanes traveling to Washington D.C. Feb. 9-12 to meet with members of the state’s congressional delegation and their staffs and some administration officials from the U.S.D.A., Department of Transportation and other agencies to push funding for local projects. The trip is part of the National Sheriff’s Conference and Legislative Seminar. Sheriff Scott is a member of three different national committees.
“It’s money well spent. I know we’ve got the Link (Golden Triangle Development Link) that works on our behalf, but we have to get out front and help them,” Deanes said of the trip.
“We spent $5,000 going last year and it turned into $1.5 million or more,” he added, citing the $600,000 Line Creek clean-out project as one example of the money their efforts helped leverage.
This year, they will push bridge projects in the western part of the county, the paving of Old Tibbee Road into Lowndes County, $800,000 for the Lake Grove Road project and work on Waverly Road outside the city, among other things.
“They will help you find ways to get money for the county. They can’t help us if we don’t lay it all out for them and tell them and show them what we need,” Deanes added.