Supervisors slash millage despite rising costs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

WOODVILLE &045;&045; Despite a recommendation from its chief financial officer for a 3.7-mill increase to cover a $456,503 deficit in the county’s insurance fund and increased mapping and appraisal costs, the Wilkinson County Board of Supervisors Monday voted 3-1 to slash 6 mills from the county’s property tax levy.

Supervisors Kirk Smith, Jack Darden and W.G. Johnson voted to lower the county’s ad valorem tax millage rate from 93.08 mills

to 87.08 mills.

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That change will take effect for the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

Supervisor Mack Haynes voted against the decrease, and Supervisor Robert Morgan was absent from the meeting.

The reduction means property owners will pay about $61 less in yearly ad valorem taxes on a single-family, owner-occupied residential property valued at $100,000.

And since a mill generates about $46,000 in property tax revenue in Wilkinson County, the lower millage rate means the county will operate with $276,000 less income.

About 20 county residents attended the hearing, where Chancery Clerk Thomas Tolliver proposed a 1.7-mill increase to alleviate the deficit in the county’s health insurance pool, which covers about 70 county employees.

Tolliver also suggested premium increases of $127.50 per month for employees with single-coverage plans and $205 per month for those with family plans, as well as doubling the employee deductible from $250 to $500.

Tolliver asked the board for an additional 2-mill increase to fund the maintenance of reappraisal and mapping services provided by

Woodville-based Herring Appraisal and Computer Services and Graphics Elite of Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Combined, the two contracts are expected to cost the county $145,000 yearly.

Herring’s fee &045;&045; now projected by county officials to run about $120,000 annually &045;&045; has more than doubled since February.

That was when the company began installing new computer hardware and software in county offices.

&uot;This service has been funded with 1 mill since it was mandated back in the mid-80s.

We’ve been operating this fund at a deficit,&uot; Tolliver said.

After answering questions from citizens and summarizing his budget proposal, Tolliver made it clear the board was ultimately responsible for the county’s finances.

&uot;I’m not advocating an increase in taxes.

But this is what’s going to be necessary if these projects are funded,&uot; Tolliver said.

But the Board of Supervisors directed Tolliver to refigure the $4.9 million budget based on a 6-mill reduction, beginning with a 2.5-mill cut in the county-wide road fund.

Each supervisor’s district will operate with about $23,000 less in the next fiscal year as a result of the decrease. &uot;We’re cutting our own budget, and now the rest of them can cut back, too,&uot; Darden said.

Tolliver warned the board that a 6-mill reduction will jeopardize county services and possibly cause layoffs.

&uot;When we start handing out pink slips, and we can’t pay insurance claims, I’m going to send the calls to the board,&uot; he said.

After the meeting, Johnson said the millage rate needed to be lowered, even if services are cut or employees are laid off.

&uot;We’ve got to start somewhere.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,&uot; Johnson said.

Wilkinson County’s tax levy includes several mandated millages, including 30.03 mills for the Wilkinson County School District Maintenance Fund and 3 mills for the Southwest Community College Fund.

Supervisors have no legal authority to reduce those levies. Supervisors are required by law to

formally adopt and publish the budget for the new fiscal year by Monday.