Should donations be cut?

Published 12:01 am Friday, August 26, 2011

NATCHEZ — Three of the Adams County supervisors picked apart budget requests from area social services and nonprofits at Thursday’s budget meeting.

District 2 Supervisor Henry Watts and S.E. “Spanky” Felter said the county might be funding duplicated services for the elderly by appropriating funds to the Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District and Council of Aging.

Both the SMPDD and Council of Aging requested funds to provide meals to the elderly, the agencies’ budget requests said.

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The supervisors asked SMPDD Executive Director Wirt Peterson about how, exactly, a portion of their approximately $71,865 budget is spent on the elderly.

“It looked like a duplicate description of what’s going on,” Watts told Peterson.

Peterson said the agency spends funds appropriated from the county as a match for federal and state funding for feeding programs at the Natchez Senior Citizens Center.

“From that amount (of the county’s appropriation), we get 10 to 15 times the amount of federal or state funds,” Peterson said to the board via speakerphone.

The supervisors then called executive director of the Natchez Senior Citizen Center — which operates partially under the Council on Aging — Sabrena Bartley to ask her how the center uses its funds from the county.

Bartley said she uses the funds from the county to match the money given to her by SMPDD.

Peterson said the senior center subcontracts the feeding service from his agency.

Bartley said she was unaware that both her budget request of $57,353 and the SMPDD included the same descriptions for how the money was used.

Murray said while Bartley requested $57,353, which she likely thought she received last year, the council on aging was actually funded $44,438 in 2010-2011.

Watts said since Bartley’s cover letter on her budget request said she wanted the same funding she received last year county should fund $44,438.

“She doesn’t know how much she’s getting,” Murray said.

Watts asked other supervisors why the state legislature and U.S. Congress are concerned about Medicare and Social Security but the supervisors aren’t re-examining funding for the elderly.

“Why are we immune from (reform) locally,” Watts said.

Campbell said local government shouldn’t cut programs like the state does because they are more familiar with the every day goings on of county residents.

“We know where everybody lives and understand how they live,” Campbell said. “We are more hands on and have more affection (for residents).

“If you think (President) Obama is coming to Natchez, Mississippi to help someone … They’re on another level, it’s a different ball game.”

Felter questioned the level of funding the county gives the Natchez Literary and Cinema Festival, Natchez Opera Festival and Natchez Little Theatre.

“Why don’t we give them the same thing?” Felter said.

Felter suggested cutting the literary festival’s $5,000 budget down to $2,500, which is the amount the opera festival and theatre receive.

Campbell said the supervisors should not cut budgets from nonprofit services that have recieved the same funding for multiple years in order to maintain a standard.

“Whether we like it or not, other counties look at as (Adams County) as having a little bit more to offer,” Campbell said of the arts groups.

“I don’t go to those things, but I promise you $2,500 is nothing compared to the (funds generated) from the people that come in (to attend the events).”

Murray said in order to prepare for the worst-case scenario, the board will have to find another $100,000 — less than one mill — to cut to avoid a tax increase if they learn they cannot refinance a road bond to pay only interest in 2011-2012.

Chancery Clerk Tommy O’Beirne said he expected to hear from financial advisors Thursday if the county could refinance its road bond.

Campbell said the board should take the $100,000 from the asphalt budget and keep appropriations where they are.

No votes were taken on the budget.

Lazarus did not attend the meeting, and Grennell made a brief appearance.

Watts said the supervisors who did not attend the budget meeting should have been there.

“It’s bad for the county,” Watts said.

Lazarus said he gave Murray prior notice that he could not attend the meeting Thursday morning.

Watts missed Aug. 15 budget meeting and much of the Aug. 16 budget meeting.

The board planned Thursday to meet this morning.