Supervisor Wilson: Best use of ARPA funds is to pay down county’s debt

Published 2:26 pm Sunday, January 15, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Adams County District 2 Supervisor Kevin Wilson is a businessman, first and foremost, and arguably one of the most successful in the county.

He is pushing his fellow supervisors to use the bulk of the county’s windfall funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to pay down a portion of the county’s $13.5 million in debt.

Supervisor Kevin Wilson

“If you take an average of four percent interest, we are paying about $540,000 a year in interest alone on that debt, without touching a cent of the principal. That’s $45,000 a month in interest we are throwing in the trashcan. That’s $1,500 a day. Just interest. That does not include the principal at all,” Wilson said.

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Adams County received approximately $5.9 million in ARPA funds. Some supervisors have balked at Wilson’s idea, saying they want to spend that money on something the public will recognize 10 years from now.

“If you pay down debt, you’re not going to see this money. It’s gone,” said District 2 Supervisor Angela Hutchins at an October meeting. “Other counties did things they would be able to see 10 years from now. We won’t be able to see any of it.”

At that same meeting, District 4 Supervisor Ricky Gray said he’s not opposed to using some of the ARPA funds to pay down the county’s debt, but not all of it.

“We can use some of the money to pay down some debt and use some of the money on something that we can see for the next 10 to 15 years,” Gray said at the October meeting.

Wilson said using the money on anything other than paying down debt is a disservice to the people in Adams County who pay taxes. I’m looking at this from my point of view, which is from a business standpoint. That’s bad business.”

Wilson has spent most of his adult life in the oil business, beginning at the very bottom rung and working his way up. He owns Black Jack Oil and a number of other diversified companies and is heavily invested in real estate. Wilson is Mississippi’s largest independent oil producer.

“The county has just been given this lagniappe of $6 million. This is a once-in-a-lifetime windfall for the county. Why wouldn’t you pay down the county’s debt with it,” he asked.

In the long run, paying down the county’s debt will free up funds for the general fund.

“I don’t want to be the supervisor who has to tell the taxpayers that we are going to raise your taxes because we spent all your money and need more,” Wilson said. “I don’t believe that’s how it should work. This county needs to run more like a business. You just don’t keep going back to taxpayers and saying, ‘Hey, we want more money because we need to buy more stuff.’ ”

Supervisors have not decided on how to spend the $5.9 million in ARPA funds, though discussions have made it clear if any shortfall is needed to complete the Morgantown Road project funds could come from the ARPA funding. That said, recent grant funds should be enough to complete Morgantown Road without having to use ARPA funding.

“The county has done a poor job of managing the people’s money. Not necessarily this board. It’s been going on for 40 years. Just like the national debt keeps growing, somebody will have to pay those bills.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have the money to pay down debt. At your house, if you were in debt, you don’t go out and buy a boat just because you got a $10,000 tax refund. You pay that debt first.

“I believe that as supervisors, we were elected to take care of the taxpayers who elected each of us. We were elected to be stewards of their money and use it in the best interest of all of them. Anything less is a slap in the face to these taxpayers,” Wilson said.