Lazarus let emotions get best of him
Published 12:03 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Mike Lazarus, who recently was defeated by Wes Middleton for a second time for the District 1 county supervisor’s position, is obviously experiencing a lot of anger at having lost his recent election.
Some of the statements Lazarus presented in a Top of the Morning published in last Friday’s newspaper beg for more explanation to allow for accuracy and truth.
First, Mike Lazarus did not leave Adams County with a $4.5 million surplus at the end of fiscal year 2019, which was his last in office. There was no “cash surplus” or $4.5 million in cash reserve. That is a fact. Records in the Adams County Chancery Clerk’s office bear this out.
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What there was, was money in the county’s coffers that was needed to pay the county’s bills for October, November and December of his last calendar year in office.
Here’s the thing: The great bulk of the county’s operating revenue comes from the collection of property taxes. And, each year, the county does not begin receiving its property tax payments until January of the next calendar year. Therefore, each and every year, the county begins its fiscal year on Oct. 1 with several million dollars waiting to be used to pay the October, November and December bills. That is true of the coming fiscal year for the county, too.
Lazarus writes how it “took me years to build up” this cash reserve he claims to have left the county. Again, there was no “surplus” of cash at the end of his term, when he was defeated the first time by Wes Middleton for the District 1 seat.
And, Lazarus was not a board of one. He worked with four other supervisors who helped make decisions. Just as all of the blame for inaction by the board Lazarus served on, like ignoring the problem with the Adams County Jail for his 12 years in office, Lazarus does not deserve all of the credit, either.
Next, Lazarus claims Middleton bragged about the “largest bond (borrowing money) in the history of the county.” I am not certain the road-paving bond is the largest in county history. I seem to recall the Rentech bond during Lazarus’s tenure was $9 million, but I could be wrong about that. I was unable to verify that as of this writing with the Chancery Clerk’s office or the county attorney. However, Middleton didn’t brag about borrowing the money. He bragged about the historic road project accomplished this year with that money.
What Lazarus failed to point out is, every cent of that bond money is being repaid by road and bridge use tax money collected and distributed to the county by the State of Mississippi.
That road and bridge use tax money legally cannot be used to fund anything else, so instead of doing smaller road projects for many years, the supervisors — all of them — chose to seek a bond to repair county roads in one project, and repay the bond with those tax monies sent from the state. They should be applauded for that, not criticized.
Next, Lazarus claims The Natchez Democrat did not follow through on information he provided to us about county issues. During his campaign, Lazarus made two “off the record” allegations to me involving the county and I looked into both. Without going into specifics, one piece of information did not check out. He was simply wrong. The other, alleged wrongdoing by two sitting supervisors, couldn’t be proved or disproved. Unless someone who witnessed the wrongdoing was willing to come forward as a witness, there was nothing to report.
His Top O goes on to accuse the board of improving Chester Willis Field as a favor to Middleton, who works for Rex Sporting Goods and sells goods like uniforms to schools that play on that field. Shame on you, Mike. That’s a cheap shot. Have you been to Chester Willis Field lately? Lord forbid one of the visiting family members has to use the current restrooms at Chester Willis Field. It is an embarrassment to our entire county.
In fact, it was the board during Lazarus’s tenure that squandered away an opportunity for the county and city to build together a state-of-the-art sports complex here. That is what makes the renovation of Chester Willis Field so necessary now.
Mike let his emotions get the best of him when he wrote his Top of the Morning. We can all take a lesson from his reaction to his loss.
Wes Middleton did not deserve the baseless accusations and wrath Lazarus threw his way. Middleton has worked hard for this county and contributed to some very good decisions and work in the last four years, as have each of the other supervisors. No board is perfect; they all make mistakes. As a whole, the current board of supervisors has much to be proud of.
Jan Griffey is community editor at The Natchez Democrat. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.