Supervisors Cut Costs To Deal With State Shortfall

Lee County supervisor Bobby Smith spent the day pricing construction equipment. But Smith wasn't in a buying mood. A slowdown in Lee County's furniture industry, and now a sluggish state economy have handcuffed the county's budget. He said the financial situation has caused Lee County supervisors "to back off in purchasing machinery, those kinds of things. Make it last a year longer."

Supervisors from all over the state wandered through an expo hall set up at the Coliseum Convention Center. They came to Biloxi for the 72nd Mississippi Association of Supervisors convention. The hot topic this year dealt with the trickle down effect from cutbacks in the state budget.

According to Stone County supervisor Scott Strickland, "We either have to cut services or we're going to have to increase our taxes on our local citizens to provide those services."

Supervisors weren't the only people at the convention worried about financial cutbacks. Columbus architect Maxey Peterson said, "It impacts us. It impacts the contractors, the subcontractors and the suppliers."

Peterson's firm had a booth at the supervisors convention. Because of county budget problems, Peterson just scaled back a Monroe County jail project so it could be built at less cost to taxpayers. "We're seeing a good bit of that stuff," he said. "Projects not being cut completely out, but being cut back."

Because state economists didn't predict this year's financial pinch, supervisors didn't budget for it. But they will next year. That's why some supervisors said their next budgets may have steeper cuts in them. If that's the case, suppliers may have trouble selling goods and services to Mississippi counties.

The Mississippi Association of Supervisors convention runs through Thursday.