City, county budgets show need for revenue

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 9, 2000

Natchez aldermen and Adams County supervisors say they need more money to keep up with changing times.

&uot;Realize we’re going to have to raise taxes to keep up,&uot; Ward 4 Alderman David Massey said Tuesday at public hearing on the city’s proposed tax increase.

Ward 6 Alderman Jake Middleton agrees. &uot;It just takes more money to run the city than it used to,&uot; he said.

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Supervisors likewise said they need more money — in part for cost-of-living raises for county employees, who have not had a raise in three years.

When the aldermen and Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith voted through a 13 percent increase in city ad valorem taxes this week, they also passed the $33 million budget of which it is a part.

The county, which held a public hearing Thursday on its proposed 1.95-mill tax increase, won’t adopt its budget until Tuesday.

County Administrator Charlie Brown said Friday he is still working on figures for that budget and did not know how much it would be. Last year’s total county budget was nearly $25 million, with a general fund budget of $10.5 million.

The city’s $33 million budget compared to the county’s proposed $25 million budget at first seems unbalanced. After all, the city is smaller than the county.

But, only $10.7 million of the city’s total budget goes toward the general fund — the money the city uses to operate.

Similarly, the county uses $10.5 million for its general fund, which includes money for such things as personnel, building and equipment repairs and the various county courts.

Outside the city’s general fund, another $1.1 million is set aside for recreation and culture.

Through this money, the city maintains and operates Duncan Park with its golf course and pool as well as many other facilities.

&uot;The rest of it is money sitting in there for the convention center, for bluff stabilization, for Government Fleet Road,&uot; City Clerk Donnie Holloway said.

In December, the city took out $12 million in bonds for construction of a downtown convention center and community center and renovation of the city auditorium.

Beginning Oct. 1, the city will spend more than $5.7 million on public safety, including fire and police protection.

Upgrading those services has caused the cost of public safety to increase in the past few years, City Attorney Walter Brown said.

Hiring new officers, raising their salaries to compete with neighboring agencies and purchasing new equipment have all added to the city’s expenditures, Brown said. &uot;But, that has resulted in reduced premiums for city businesses,&uot; he said. City residents enjoy a 4 fire rating, down from almost 6 a few years ago.

Public works, including road and street maintenance, comprise $1.87 million of the city’s general fund.

Miscellaneous costs, including insurance and utilities are the second highest expenditure in the general fund at $1.89 million.

&uot;People don’t realize that street light outside their house costs $95 a year,&uot; Ward 3 Alderwoman Sue Stedman said.

Employee salaries and operation of City Hall make up the $1.13 million general government category of expenditures.

Kay Pat, city personnel department, said the city has about 275 employees, with between 15 to 20 of those being part-time. That does not include the 36 people employed by Natchez Water Works, which operates in a separate budget.

The remaining $90,000 in the general fund supports senior services and operation of the Natchez Senior Citizen Multi-Purpose Center.

The county’s proposed budget, for which figures weren’t yet available, allocates the greatest portion of its millage to the general fund. Of the 56.76 mills the county will collect in ad valorem taxes, the general fund will take in 32.07. mills.

Outside the county’s general fund are allocations for waste collection, fire protection, the Economic Development Authority, the airport, roads and bridges, bond and interest and appropriations for maintenance and improvements at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

The greatest increases in millage in the proposed budget are allocated to the road and bridge funds. To do that, the county has had to shift some millage from other funds, such as waste collection and fire protection. Those shifts in spending will also benefit the more than 300 county employees and will help pay for construction and operation for the juvenile justice center, under construction on State Street.

&uot;By making extra cuts in other departments, we’ve been able to take care of most of the raises and the juvenile justice center,&uot; county Administrator Brown said at Thursday’s tax hearing.