County facing spending freeze

Published 12:30 am Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors faced a harsh reality about their finances Monday at the board’s first meeting since the fiscal year calendar flipped anew.

County Administrator Joe Murray requested during his department report that all departments freeze nonoperational spending that is not immediately necessary until property taxes roll onto the books.

The request came two days after the newly adopted budget kicked in on Saturday.

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Chancery Clerk Tommy O’Beirne said the county will likely have shortfalls in revenue until December or January because only taxes from automobile tags will be collected until those months.

“We always have cash flow problems during this part of the year,” O’Beirne said.

District 3 Supervisor Thomas “Boo” Campbell said he did not remember ever freezing all but non-emergency costs as early as the first meeting of the new fiscal year.

“This is ridiculous, but that’s the way it shook out…because we didn’t raise the (tax) millage,” Campbell said.

District 2 Supervisor Henry Watts said he was not sure the county could move forward with any new projects considering the revenue shortfalls unless a new industry, such as Elevance Renewable Sciences, starts bringing in revenue.

“We’re in a tight (budget year), and it’s tighter than I thought it was,” Watts said.

“This is going to make us live within our means, and we just need to practice that.”

Board President Darryl Grennell said revenues were especially tight because Trustmark Bank turned down the county’s request to refinance a bond it took out a few months ago for a $2.4 million road repaving project.

The county recently attempted to refinance the bond from a five-year to a 10-year bond in order to pay 10-year payments of $270,000 instead of five-year payments of $521,000.

O’Beirne said, however, that the bank’s loan committee denied the county’s request, though he said he did not know why.

The board unanimously passed a motion at Murray’s suggestion to send letters to each department asking the departments not to spend any money that is not essential, unless an emergency arises, at least until December.

“We need to be very conscientious (with spending),” Murray said.

After other county officials gave reports, Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton spoke during the public comments section of the meeting, asking the board to pay an additional $50,000 to the city for fire protection.

Grennell said the county would not pay the additional $50,000 this fiscal year.

“(I would) hope that we could possibly look at that for the new fiscal year (starting in Oct 1, 2012), but in the current fiscal year…It’s a tight fiscal year,” he said.

Middleton said 30 percent of fire calls are to the county, and the city taxpayers should not have to supplement funding for county fire protection.

District 1 Supervisor Mike Lazarus pointed out that the Adams County Sheriff’s Office has responded to more calls from within city limits in recent years.

“I do want to just ask for it,” Middleton said.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen authorized the mayor last week to renew the fire protection agreement in exchange for the additional $50,000. The agreement provides Natchez Fire Department fire protection for residences, businesses and industries in Adams that are outside Natchez city limits.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board adopted a resolution of appreciation for Adams County Road Manager Clearance “Curley” Jones, for his 46 years of service to the county.

Jones will retire this month, Grennell said.

The board also passed a motion to name a new bridge that will be built on Palestine Road “Clarence ‘Curley’ Jones Bridge.”

The board appointed Sammy Lee Gaines as the interim road manager.

Grennell said the board had to wait until January to appoint a permanent road manager since the current board members’ terms end in less than six months.