Adams County residents ask ‘What do I get for my money?’

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 8, 2000

With a new increase in city ad valorem taxes and one on the table for county officials, some residents have asked: Just what do I get for my money?

Public safety, including fire and police protection, sanitation, highway and street maintenance and recreation are just a few of the services that immediately come to mind, City Clerk Donnie Holloway said.

Other city departments, such as engineering, inspection, zoning and planning are also paid for solely through tax revenues.

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&uot;You could go on and on,&uot; Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said.

City services are paid for through the general fund, which makes up one-third of the city’s $33 million annual budget, and about half of the general fund, $5.7 million, goes toward public safety.

County residents receive similar services, and the proposed tax increase is designated for employee raises, increases in the road department budget and payments for the juvenile justice center. The county’s total budget is about $24 million, with a general fund budget of more than $13 million.

But the city and county offer services that benefit each other — from recreation to transportation.

&uot;You can’t separate what the county does and say it’s only for county residents, and that what the city does is only for city residents,&uot; Smith said.

For example, the city and county jointly fund the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority.

They also sometimes share road projects, such as the upcoming repairs to Government Fleet Road, which will be paid for through state and federal grants.

But the governments also fund services separately. The county pays for the Adams County Port and the airport, while the city pays for the George W. Armstrong Library and the convention center.

&uot;The county foots the whole bill for the public school system,&uot; Supervisor Sammy Cauthen said. &uot;That’s not city millage.&uot;

Residents both inside the city limits and outside the city limits pay school taxes, and county residents living outside the city limits also pay county taxes.

Residents inside city limits pay city taxes and county taxes. But their county taxes are slightly reduced because they don’t have to pay for county fire protection.

Cauthen said he’s heard some complaints from city residents who say they are taxed twice, but he said the county offers services that the city does not.

Supervisor Lynwood Easterling said he hasn’t heard that complaint from city residents. &uot;We all live in Adams County,&uot; he said.

&uot;(City residents) get some benefits from the county as well,&uot; said Supervisor Thomas &uot;Boo&uot; Campbell.

Those benefits include road repairs, such as the Government Fleet Road project, and the service of the health department, he said.

And Cauthen said people who live in the city also drive on county roads and bridges. &uot;We help the city when they need help,&uot; he said.

The county also funds the port and airport — which Cauthen said are needed for economic development for the entire area. &uot;Without that port the Mississippi River does us no good,&uot; Cauthen said. &uot;You wouldn’t have a need for an economic development authority if you didn’t have a port and a airport.&uot;

City officials agree the joint projects between the city and county benefit all residents, and that the port and airport are definite economic mainstays, but, the city offers many services that the county does not.

&uot;The library is a prime example,&uot; Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said. &uot;We don’t deny anybody to come into Armstong library.&uot;

Fire protection, recreation and senior citizen services are also available to all county residents through city funding.

&uot;One of the services the city provides that the county does not not is a full-time recreation department,&uot; Ward 5 Alderman David Massey said.

Every year, the city sets aside $800,000 for recreation, compared to just more than $40,000 by the county, Massey said.

By enjoying city services, county residents from outside the city limits are getting a &uot;free ride,&uot; Massey said.

&uot;We (in the city) are not getting a free ride anywhere,&uot; he said.

Ward 4 Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West said he supports conducting a study on the benefits of consolidating some of the city and county’s services.

&uot;We would be able to streamline a lot of services by doing that,&uot; West said. &uot;I don’t think we’re on the same page on a lot of things.&uot;

Emily Whitten contributed to this report.