Time to consolidate city, county services is now

Published 9:27 pm Friday, February 5, 2021

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Now is the time for leaders in the city and the county to sit down together and make a plan for consolidating as many shared services as possible.

When I moved back to Natchez in 2019, the topic of city and county consolidation seemed to be picking up steam. It quickly fizzled after a conference at the convention center, staffed by some experts from John C. Stennis Institute at Mississippi State University, who explained the different ways such governmental consolidation could happen in our state.

In short, consolidation of city and county government here would be complicated and difficult at best and at worst would require approval by the state legislature.

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At one time, Natchez and Adams County had some clout within state government. We don’t seem to have much legislative power these days. For instance, most in the city and county have gone on record as wanting to elect members of our public school board. Both city and county governmental bodies went as far as passing a non-binding resolution seeking that, but we can’t even get the idea brought up in legislative committees.

Nonetheless, our city and county elected leaders do not need to wait for consolidation to combine services and save precious tax dollars.

In recent meetings, the Adams County Board of Supervisors have discussed the need to increase wages of workers in the road department as well as in other county departments.

That need is real. Road manager Robbie Dollar and others say Adams County is losing employees to nearby municipalities that pay better than we do.

Supervisor Ricky Gray said he would be in favor of increasing pay, but only if money to fund the pay increases can be found within the county’s budget. Gray said he would be in favor of raising taxes to fund the pay increases if such was needed.

Board President Angela Hutchins said it has been at least two years since county employees received pay increases.

Most private businesses are struggling in this economy and many employees have gone a lot longer than a couple of years without pay increases. In the business world, if you don’t have the revenue to fund pay increases, you don’t give pay increases. You may want to, but you can’t.

That’s how the county should operate, as well. Do employees deserve raises? Of course they do. However, if the money can’t be found to pay for them, then you can’t give raises.

Now is the worst time ever to even talk about tax increases. It’s the exact right time to come together and find a way to do more with less by consolidating services.

Roads and public works, police and fire could be consolidated within the city and the county, which would likely mean better services for taxpayers, better equipment for workers for fewer tax dollars.

That is the job of our elected officials, isn’t it? Isn’t their charge to serve their constituents, offering the best service possible at the least expense?

That means consolidating services.

It can happen. It should happen right now.

Do we have any elected official willing to lead the way to get this done?

Jan Griffey is editor and general manager of The Natchez Democrat. You may reach her at jan.griffey@natchezdemocrat.com or by calling 601-445-3627. Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication.