County proposing tax increase of approximately 9 mills to help cover coming budget shortfall

Published 1:01 pm Thursday, August 31, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a 9.24 mill tax increase and discussed doubling residential garbage collection fees, as well as cutting personnel, in an effort to balance the budget.

The 9.24 mill tax increase should generate an additional $2 million in revenue from ad valorem tax levy.

Ad valorem taxes include things like property taxes on homes, automobile tags, utilities, business fixtures and equipment and rental real property.

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The county’s board of supervisors learned several weeks ago that the revenue the county brings in from its current tax rate of 116.83 mills would not be enough to cover the county’s expenses next budget year. At the current tax rate, approximately $16,605,286 comes from ad valorem taxes. At the proposed new rate of 126.07 mills, the county expects to generate approximately $18,563,463 from ad valorem taxes.

Ad valorem taxes account for a little less than half of the county’s total revenues. In this current budget year, which ends Sept. 30, total revenues were budgeted at $34,480,864. In the supervisor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023-2024, revenues are budgeted to total $38,022,580.

Chuck Lambert, a former Pike County administrator and supervisor, was contracted by the supervisors to help with the coming fiscal year’s county budget, since the supervisors have yet to hire a new county administrator. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Lambert shared with supervisors that because of increases in the county’s cost of retirement and health insurance for county employees, as well as a new garbage contract approved by a three-to-two majority of the supervisors in May of this year which increases garbage collection costs by approximately $900,000 per year, the county would need to raise taxes and/or garbage fees, or cut $2 million in the county’s budget.

Supervisors, in an effort to lessen the blow to county employees and the services they provide to citizens, have chosen to do all three.

In addition to the proposed ad valorem levy increase, supervisors plan to increase garbage fees on residents who live outside the Natchez city limits. The City of Natchez provides garbage services to residents in the city.

County residents currently pay monthly garbage fees of $15 per month. The new garbage fee will increase to an amount between $30 and $35 per household per month to help pay for the new garbage contract with United Infrastructure.

Supervisors are expected to make a final decision on what the new garbage fee will be at the Board of Supervisor meeting on Tuesday at 9 a.m. at 314 State St. The board typically meets on the first and third Monday of each month at 9 a.m., but Monday, Sept. 4, is Labor Day.

County Attorney said the proposed new millage rate includes 0.27 mills that belong to the Natchez-Adams School District, which the county assesses.

“That’s county and schools combined,” he said.

Supervisors also plan to make decisions on budget cuts within each county department with the exception of the Road Department, the Tax Assessor’s Department and the Justice Court.

“Those cuts are not feasible and they also represented the least of the cuts,” Slover said.

Cut within county departments, which will also be finalized on Monday at the supervisors’ meeting, are expected to total approximately $700,000 and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office will likely suffer the most cuts.

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said he has offered to cut 10 employees in light of the inmates in the county jail being housed at least temporarily in Concordia Parish.

The county’s portion of its employees’ PERS retirement payments are moving from 17.4 percent to 19.4 percent and are expected to increase an additional 2 percent each of the next three years.

The county’s health insurance costs will increase about 50 percent per employee, going from more than $8,000 per employee per year to more than $12,000 per employee.