No residents show for county budget hearing

Published 12:03 am Friday, September 6, 2013

NATCHEZ — Adams County residents apparently didn’t have much to say Thursday about the county’s proposed $24.4 million budget.

The Board of Supervisors hosted a public hearing Thursday evening to discuss the proposed budget for fiscal year 2013-2014, which will be officially adopted at 9 a.m. Sept. 12, but no residents attended.

The budget does not reflect an increase in taxes.

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County Administrator Joe Murray said the budget has an increase of $1,706,8887 in expenditures over the last fiscal year, $769,500 of which will go to pay debt incurred from the county’s recent purchase of the former International Paper property.

The other significant increase was a $220,000 increase employee health insurance, which Murray said had never been properly budgeted for under the county’s former self-funded health care plan. The county is now fully insured, meaning the real cost of each employee’s health care is covered under the budget, he said.

“Before, we were having to budget for the premiums but also for the claims themselves after that,” Murray said. “It is hard to budget a certain amount of money in there for your claims.”

Even though the county’s acquisition of a warehouse property in the Natchez-Adams County Port added another $308,000 to the county’s debt payments for the coming fiscal year, Murray said that cost would be offset by a $340,000 lease agreement between the county and the Natchez-Adams County Port Commission.

In the coming fiscal year, the county is also budgeting for a $110,000 decrease in costs for solid waste disposal due to a new, cheaper contract; a $121,000 decrease in costs due to technology consolidation that will require less overall maintenance; and a $650,000 decrease from the current year in costs for asphalt projects.

Supervisors’ President Darryl Grennell said the reduction in asphalt costs was because no major road work was planned for the coming year.

“There is some asphalt money in the road department’s budget for small jobs, but there isn’t going to be a major overlay program unless a pot of gold is found,” he said.

Murray said the county is also expecting to see additional revenues from several sources, including:

-$100,000 for reimbursement for housing prisoners for other counties, mainly at the juvenile justice center.

-$125,000 in increased gaming revenues due to the opening of a second casino in the area.

-$100,000 in additional oil severance and privilege taxes, an increase Murray said he projected based on the trend of recent years and new oil severance laws that direct more money to counties.

-$263,773 in additional federal funds for emergency watershed projects.

In addition to the budget hearing, the board met in executive session to discuss the hire of a new veterans services director for the county. The former director, Erle Drane, announced his retirement in July.

Grennell said the board has interviewed nine candidates and would be making a decision about the hire soon.