Supes approve budget with tax increase

The Clay County Board of Supervisors met Thursday to approve the budget for the next fiscal year. (Donna Summerall DTL)
Staff Writer

The Clay County Board of Supervisors approved a budget with a tax increase of approximately 2.5 mills, the first increase in 10 years.

Higher taxes will mean increases of between $25 and $30 a year on an average house in the county and will help avoid accessing the rainy-day funds the county has on hand in the event of emergencies.

"We know no one ever likes to hear about tax increases," Supervisor RB Davis said. "We haven't had one in a long time."

The board approved the budget Thursday, which takes effect Oct. 1 and includes a 2 percent pay raise for full- time county employees starting Jan. 1.

It is the first pay raise for full-time county workers in many years.

The county’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1, 2019 to Sept. 30, 2020.

The budget includes approximately $6.9 million in general fund operating expenses, up from $6.6 million in the current budget year which concludes Sept. 30.

There are many expenditures that are the reason for the higher taxes, $72,000 in higher pension fund contributions mandated by the state, an almost $25,000 increase in liability insurance, a $40,000 hike in employee health insurance premiums, $50,000 as the first of five installments to replace the county’s decade-old 911 dispatch equipment, another $40,000 in 911 operating expenses, a $143,000 annual ambulance contract and a $100,000 increase in mental health and medical expenses in lunacy court and the Clay County Jail.

"We had to request $190.70 to do an emergency repair on the 911 console," Torrey Williams of Clay County Emergency Management said. "But it has to be replaced. It is really old and out-dated. Our citizens rely on 911, and equipment has to be updated."

Chancery Court Clerk Amy Berry, who serves as the county’s finance officer, talked about the increase in mental health expenditures.

“Some of these like the jail expenses and mental health are totally unpredictable," Berry said. "We have taken big hits this year that are out of our control. We have to budget for the worst and hope for the best, hope that this year was an extreme and the number of cases will return to a more normal level.”

The agency has had to spend thousands of dollars in the last two years stabilizing the rail spur foundation because of drainage issues. Those costs have put a dent in the economic agency’s small reserve fund.

"We still have to restore the rail bed," Bob Calvert, county engineer said. "About 40 more feet was damaged during the summer rains. But it is going to get done."

B.J. McClendon with the Mississippi State University Extension Service came before the board to make a request.

"I'd like for the board to give us some consideration for more space for MSUES," McClendon said. "Now that the Justice Court has moved to its new location. We could use more space for our 4-H projects with the children."

The board agreed to take it under consideration.

The board also approved the purchase of a 2002 Chevrolet pick up truck for $3,500, to be used as a water truck.

The board authorized and approved the Clerk to advertise the final adopted budget to appear in the Daily Times Leader.