County gets a message: No new taxes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 8, 1999

One thing was clear Tuesday night: the 30 or so people at a public hearing do not want county taxes raised.

&uot;Businesses are not thriving,&uot;&160;said Anne Stowers, CEO of the Natchez Adams County Chamber of Commerce. &uot;Higher taxes are going to hurt existing business and won’t encourage new business to come in.&uot;

At a public hearing Tuesday night, county Administrator Charlie Brown presented a draft of the county budget that would include a $4,379,977 or 9.4 percent tax increase.

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Primary features of the budget include paying off indebtedness of the Natchez-Adams County Port, completing construction of the juvenile justice center and the courthouse renovation, replacing old road equipment, and giving county employees an 8 percent raise.

Butch McEwen, who works for International Paper’s Woodlands division, said the budget is out of touch with economic reality in the county.

&uot;In industry, we have to do cost-cutting when we have a shortfall. We don’t have the luxury of raising taxes,&uot; McEwen said. &uot;Look around you. IP is laying off, the hospital is laying off, how many at Titan are still out of work? I&160;don’t see that the taxpayers can absorb another increase.&uot;

Supervisor Sammy Cauthen said he doesn’t back the current budget.

&uot;Most industry is cutting salary and people. I don’t think we can vote for pay raises,&uot; Cauthen said.

Local businesswoman Fran Bell Christie questioned the accountability in place for collection of county fines and outstanding debt.

Salmon said the county had approved a collection agency to collect on the county’s bad debts, allowing them to take their commission over and above the amounts owed the county.

The overall message to supervisors was that taxpayers could not take another tax increase.

&uot;I am in complete sympathy and understand everyone’s frustration,&uot; Salmon said. &uot;We will sincerely, diligently weigh everything they have said tonight.&uot;

Supervisors will set a work session on the budget between Tuesday’s public hearing and the next public hearing scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. in the supervisor’s board room.