Harrison County supervisors adopt new budget

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County supervisors managed to hold the line on taxes with the new budget, but for the third straight year, county employees will not see any pay increase.

Supervisors voted to approve the new budget at Monday's board meeting.

Supervisor Windy Swetman said the budget process is all about "accountability." And he's pleased with the final financial plan following three months of budget discussions.

Even though county workers won't be getting a raise; there won't be any layoffs either.

Supervisors can breathe a sigh of relief with the adoption of the new budget. The struggling economy not only means belt tightening and cutbacks for many Americans, it also presents a financial challenge for county leaders.

"It was a very difficult year. We met for about three months and toiled over the budget. And budget cuts that we had to make for Harrison County," said board president, Connie Rockco.

The sheriff's department will have to make do with less. Public safety accounts for nearly 40 percent of the county's budget.

Sheriff Melvin Brisolara will try and absorb a $1.3 million cutback without resorting to layoffs.

"Certainly there are constraints fiscally in the county. It's not as bad for counties as it is for states and cities because we don't derive sales tax in the counties. Ours are ad valorem. We had a reduction in ad valorem due to the current economy, but we were able to manage those dollars that we had," said supervisor Windy Swetman.

As for those county workers going a third straight year with no pay increase, the board president said passing a budget without layoffs was the best they could do this year.

"I would have loved, and I think the board would have loved, to have given raises to our employees who worked so hard and been so patient and diligent. However, it's just that saving jobs was much more important to us at this time," said Rockco.

Supervisors held the line on taxes with the new budget. But residents in the unincorporated areas will pay more in school taxes.

"When they see that and they get a tax increase, the Harrison County board of supervisors did not increase their taxes," said supervisor Swetman. "The tax increase they are seeing is from the Harrison County school board and not the Harrison County board of supervisors."

The Harrison County school board increased taxes about four percent to help deal with an expected eight million dollar shortfall.

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