Budget hearing draws crowd

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 11, 1999

Emotion ran high in the Adams County Administrative Building Friday morning as supervisors struggled to pass a fiscal year 2000 budget.

A contingent of county employees, businessmen and women, and interested residents filled the board room gallery to overflowing.

&uot;I work for the county and I feel we deserve a raise,&uot; said Eva Dunkley, county receiving clerk. She said there are many ways to save money in the budget without raising taxes.

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Following the vote, Dunkley said county employees met outside the County Administrative office on State Street and discussed the vote. &uot;Morale is very low. We’re very disappointed,&uot; she said.

Supervisors trimmed $600,000 from the fiscal 2000 budget before the raises were cut, said county administrator Charlie Brown.

Supervisors are also looking into a merit based pay system in which county employees would receive raises based on performance of their jobs, rewarding good workers and weeding out poor ones.

By encouraging retirement of retirement aged workers and instituting a merit-based pay system in January, board president Virginia Salmon said she hoped the board could recoup funds to apply to pay raises for remaining county employees.

&uot;When an employee feels that he or she is getting a raise and then has that raise taken away, it does something inside,&uot; said Rose Wilson, assistant purchasing agent.

&uot;I am completely saddened by what happened in the board room today. I feel that the same thing that happened today will happen next year and the year after that. The supervisors have got to look harder and dig deeper to get beneficial things for employees.&uot;

Mike Thompson, president of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce, attended the public hearing and said supervisors faced a tough but inevitable decision Friday.

&uot;This is what business is about – making tough decisions,&uot; he said.

Earlier in the week, supervisors proposed a 3.66 mill or 9.4 percent increase in the county budget to not only allow for payment of port indebtedness but to allow for an eight percent pay raise for over 200 county employees.

In a public hearing Tuesday night, county residents rejected the increased tax burden in the face of business shut downs and industrial layoffs.

&uot;In industry, we have to do cost-cutting when we have a shortfall. We don’t have the luxury of raising taxes,&uot; said Butch McEwen, who works in International Paper’s Woodlands Division.

Supervisor Sammy Cauthen said when he thinks of the Adams County economy, he thinks of his grandchildren.

&uot;I have grandchildren who will be old enough to go to work one day, and I want them to have jobs to go to in Adams County,&uot; he said. &uot;We’ll never attract business to a county that continues to raise taxes.&uot;

Between the public hearings on Tuesday evening and Friday morning, supervisors told Brown to reconfigure the budget without the county raises.

This change brought the tax increase from 3.66 mills to 1.17 mills, or about $18 per $100,000 of assessed home value. The total tax bill will come to $8,181,777.