Board mulls few budget changes

Published 5:00 am Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lincoln County officials are projecting a slight increase inproperty taxes to pay for a bond issue to install theinfrastructure at Linbrook Business Park, but they are projectingfew other changes in the new year county budget.

The budget will be presented to the public during a meeting at 9a.m. Sept. 14 at the Brookhaven-Lincoln County GovernmentComplex.

County Administrator David Fields said the budget is sounchanged from this year that supervisors have not even held worksessions separate from their regularly scheduled board meetings todiscuss it.

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“We haven’t talked a whole lot about it because there’s been noreal changes,” he said.

Approximately $14.2 million has been budgeted for 2007. Thespending plan includes $500,000 that was not budgeted and held as aready cash reserve for emergencies that may arise during the courseof the year, Fields said.

The figures show an increase of nearly $963,000 over the nearly$13.2 million budget for 2006. While the budget is going up, muchof the increase is to cover higher costs of day-to-day operationsinvolving fuel, utilities, road materials and related items.

The only major change on the revenue side, Fields said, is a taxlevy of 1.15 mills to cover the $250,000 principal interest paymenton a business park bond. At current values, a mill brings in$199,895 in property taxes.

“We have left the total millage rate untouched for the lastthree years, but they had to increase it a little this year ofoffset the bond,” he said.

For taxpayers, a one-mill increase will mean about $1 more onevery $1,000 of assessed property value. Depending on a fewfactors, the main one being Homestead Exemption, a property’sassessed value is a percentage of its fair market value.

The increase became necessary because supervisors agreed toissue the bond earlier this year in a cooperative effort with thecity. The bond will fund the installation of water and sewer lines,roads and other necessary infrastructure at Linbrook BusinessPark.

Both the county and city pledged $2.2 million for theproject.

Additional monies have been gained through assessments thatincreased county property values. The total property tax assessmentrose by approximately $5 million last year, he said. Theassessments are used in conjunction with the millage rate, orproperty tax levy, to determine the amount a citizen must pay inproperty taxes.

“That’s what our overall increase is,” he said.

The budget includes $164,000 for operational costs at theLincoln County Multi-Purpose Complex. The facility’s budget wasdecreased by $3,500 this year at the request of the commission thatoversees it, Fields said.

However, supervisors have also committed to providing anadditional $83,333 over a three-year period to the facility, hesaid. The additional funding will match a $250,000 Pearl RiverBasin Development District grant to construct an area with sewer,water and power hookups for recreational vehicles that will allowovernight stays at the facility and other improvements.

The county budget also raises the three-quarter mill allotted torural fire departments to a full mill, Fields said.

“The board increased their amount some to offset what was lostin the annexation,” he said.

The change reflects the supervisors’ understanding that some ofthe volunteer departments will lose money following the loss thecoverage area resulting from the city’s 14.4 mile annexation,Fields said. The allotment is divided equally among the eight ruralfire departments.

What is not included in the budget is money dedicated to therepair of the roof over the Lincoln County Regional PublicLibrary.

Henry Ledet, library director, and several members of the boardof trustees met with supervisors last month seeking funding torepair the old roof, which leaks during rains.

Supervisors are aware that funding will be needed for theproject, but are unable to budget for it because no cost figure forthe repairs has been made, Fields said. Engineers and architectsare currently examining the structure to determine those costs.

“That’s going to be something we have to look later in theyear,” he said. “It’s not in any way figured into this budget. Wehave no idea what it will cost right now.”

Supervisors have, however, pledged to make those repairs as soonas possible. Fields said, depending on its cost, supervisors coulduse some of the $500,000 cash reserve for the project or issue abond.

The county’s new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.