Hancock County's Finances Slowly Recovering From Katrina - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Hancock County's Finances Slowly Recovering From Katrina

HANCOCK COUNTY (WLOX) -- When Hurricane Katrina wiped out thousands of homes in Hancock County, it took with it hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue.

"For many, many years, the economic engine in Hancock County has been the southern end of the county, particularly and specifically the beachfront in downtown Bay St. Louis and downtown Waveland. Of course, we all know what happened," Tim Kellar said.

Kellar is Hancock County's Chancery Clerk and County Administrator. He says bankruptcy was a real fear in the first weeks after Katrina. But promised help from the federal government kept the county afloat.

"Without the federal government's help, without the federal programs, without the grants, we would be destitute. Certainly we couldn't tax the people that are in such conditions now of trying to rebuild their homes, rebuild their lives, to rebuild courthouses, emergency operation centers and jails." Kellar said.

Those much needed public services are important as residents and businesses rebuild. Many have moved to northern Hancock County, increasing land values and tax revenues there and helping keep the county coffers in balance.

Gaming revenues are also now part of the county's financial security.

"Pre-storm we didn't have Silver Slipper. Post-storm we had Silver Slipper. That has been a big, big plus for us. The money that's been put in our coffers has certainly helped off set some of those short falls."

Still, Kellar says it will be many years before Hancock County will be able to make it without help from the federal government. Right after the storm, Hancock County received a $5.2 million Community Disaster Loan to help run the County.

Tim Kellar says traditionally the federal government forgives almost all of this kind of loan. They hope the same will happen in this case.

By Al Showers

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