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Lincoln County may owe $60K — Supervisors quit grant agency last year after deadline, membership fee still due

Lincoln County may get a hefty bill for services not rendered.

Supervisors on Monday learned they might owe around $60,000 for incorrectly ending their longtime relationship with the Pearl River Basin Development District past the annual deadline for membership changes last year. The agency didn’t announce its impending doom until April 2017, and supervisors immediately voted to terminate their membership — but the law requires that decision to be made each year by March 15, and now the state may be coming after the delinquent fees.

“They kind of hooked us into a year, looks like,” said District 4 Supervisor Eddie Brown. “I don’t know if there’s anything we can do about it, but we need to do our legal paperwork and make sure we’re out for good.”

The PRBDD was formed by the Legislature in 1964 to oversee the growth of public assets along the Pearl River. Lincoln County has been awarded numerous grants through the agency, most notably for work at the Lincoln Civic Center.

The county funds PRBDD by adding one-quarter mill to the tax rate. When supervisors heard last spring the agency would soon close due to decreasing membership and lack of funding, they voted to axe their membership by removing the millage from the fiscal year 2018 budget that went into effect Oct. 1, 2017.

House Bill 593, authored by House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Read, R-Jackson, will officially end PRBDD July 1. It states the financial liability of any member county will continue beyond the agency’s death date and authorizes the state to collect.

The bill was signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant March 15.

Brown said he learned of the predicament when he last spoke with the two PRBDD board members appointed by the county. He said all his communication on the subject has been verbal, but supervisors are expecting to receive a letter concerning this from the Mississippi Department of Revenue.

Supervisors are upset the agency did not disclose its intentions to shut down until after last year’s membership deadline.

“Nobody knew about this on the closure part. With the thought of them closing down, why would you put more money into them?” Brown said. “We didn’t get word they were closing down until after March.”

District 1 Supervisor and board president the Rev. Jerry Wilson called the situation “ludicrous,” and Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop was also dumbfounded.

“We’re going to be held out $60,000 for an agency that is shutting down?” he asked. “How would you justify that? For a county our size, that is a pretty good bit of money.”

A $60,000 fee out of nowhere would be a setback for the board, which has battled money-drain in the face of unprecedented bridge closures. But the county’s money may be better spent in the future.

County Administrator David Fields said the county has always paid between $60,000 and $65,000 in annual membership to PRBDD, while most of the grants returned have been around $50,000.