County leaders hope new revenues can help with bridge and road repairs

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - While the latest road and bridge machinery is on display at the Mississippi Association of Supervisors (MAS) convention, just down the hall state supervisors are trying to figure out how they can afford it.

"For years, our infrastructure has been declining," said Stone County Supervisor Scott Strickland. "And it's at a time now when the legislature, in my opinion, has got to move forward and, in a fair and equitable way, it would be on a gas tax across the state to provide these improvements."

Strickland struggles with the issue every day.

"They say that they are cutting taxes," he said. "There's no such thing as a tax cut. It's a tax shift. And what they're doing is shifting that burden down to local counties and supervisors."

Only some of the money to maintain county roads and bridges comes from fuel tax. Most of the money comes from property tax.

State funding is mandatory for small counties to meet the challenges of repairing roads and bridges. But not so much for the coastal counties.

"I think it's a little easier for sure," said Harrison County Board of Supervisors President Angel Kibler-Middleton. "We have more to take care of than a smaller county, but we have more funds to do it with."

Hancock County Board of Supervisors President Blaine LaFontaine agreed.

"We've done a good job in managing our capital spending plans and prioritizing about three bridges a year," he said. "Now, we're probably about four or five that are in critical need. But, we have a plan in place, probably in the next 18 months to try to address all those."

But for other counties, the budgets are shrinking.

"Statewide, it's a dire situation," said Derrick Surrette, MAS executive director.

That means lawmakers may get creative with the resources like internet sales tax, increased fuel tax, or even something newer.

"I know that sports betting was just determined that we can do that," he said. "And I don't know how much money that will generate. But, I think there are many of our leaders looking at additional revenue that we didn't have yesterday that we may have in the future."

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