Harrison County supervisors hold the line on taxes with new budget

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County supervisors adopted their new budget Monday morning. The spending plan holds the line on taxes, but at least one supervisor is concerned about using emergency reserve funds to balance the budget.

Harrison County taxpayers will be paying about the same for the county's portion of the budget, but will see an increase in taxes for the school district.

Following weeks of budget workshops, the board of supervisors passed the new budget with no discussion at Monday morning's meeting.

But the vote wasn't unanimous. First term supervisor Windy Swetman cast the lone vote against the new budget.

"We're going to have to go into a cash reserve in order to meet this budget. I felt like there was some additional cuts we might have been able to make on the front end that could have given us some alternatives in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year," Swetman explained.

The total county budget approved by the board is around $148 million.

"The ad valorem part of that is about $60 million. We've worked diligently. We did not increase any taxes, which is difficult to continue to provide the services.  But I think that was the consensus of the board, that we did not want to raise taxes," Board President Marlin Ladner said.

But the county will use about $2 million from its reserve fund to cover an expected revenue shortfall. That's the move supervisor Swetman disagrees with. But the board president said it's been done before to help balance a budget.

"That is not uncommon, to do that on occasion. Especially if you have some shortfalls," Ladner said.

Although the new budget holds the line on taxes and doesn't include any cuts in personnel, at least one supervisor believes the county could be facing some more serious cutbacks in the future, if the economy doesn't turn around.

"This year, everything will maintain the same," District 5 Supervisor Connie Rockco said. "However, we do look forward to that recovery next year. And I'm afraid if that doesn't come about, then we may have to look at cuts. Severe cuts."

Board President Marlin Ladner said even after spending around $2 million from the reserve fund to cover next year's budget shortfall, that emergency fund still has about $10 million.

While the county's tax levy will remain the same, taxpayers in the Harrison County School District will be paying about five mills more in school taxes.

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