County committee discusses budget

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Mississippi County Quorum Court Finance Committee met Monday afternoon in the Courthouse Annex Building for their regular monthly meeting. No official actions were taken, but each member present received a finalized copy of the proposed 2018 county budget. It is anticipated that the full court will vote upon their budget during the December 12 full Quorum Court meeting.

Finance Committee Chairman Michael White said, “Everything looks pretty good to be honest with you. If you look at the revenue budget and you go to page two and go all the way to the bottom, and when you add in our CD [certificate of deposit], it gives us a revenue figure to work with at $9,831,916. And that is taking the 10 percent of anticipated revenues out [as required by state law]. So we have $9.8 million to work with and that to be honest with you puts us in pretty good shape.

The budget includes approximately a million dollars of “cushion” built into the budget.

“We’ve been revamping revenue figures all fall. That is one reason why it has taken so much time, trying to get our finger on our actual revenues. I don’t care what our revenues are, I just want them accurate. You don’t know what you can spend until you know what you’ve got. So this is as close as we can figure right now with the information that we’ve been given and that comes from all the various offices,” White said.

“I am pleased that we have hope of some more true revenue. Starting next year it should look better because of working so hard on those PILOT agreements, making sure that we are not missing anything, which I just think that the county should have been involved in the first place. We shouldn’t be an outside force. I can see how that can happen, but I think that doing it better from this point into the future will keep us in the loop where we can keep up with that revenue. That’s going to make a difference for us…you can’t spend what you don’t have. You just can’t make it up. It’s got to be out there. So any revenue is welcome,” County Judge Terri Brassfield said when asked about the budget. “And then elected officials and everybody has been working really hard to cut back…that is why we’ve been working so hard out at the Landfill and of course the Road Department does really well any way. But we’re still looking at that and tweaking that some too, looking to see what we can do better.”

White explained that the new budget is essentially the 2017 budget with “some, few minor changes that will take us into 2018.” He added that no raises were given and neither was approval for any additional new hires at this time.

“We’ve all worked very hard to get real figures. I’m still a little bit concerned. I just want to make sure that they are right. We think they are, but just give us a little bit of time until we get to the end of the year, close out this tax year and see exactly where we are at. If these revenue figures hold into the new year, then we’ll be prepared to make some amendments to the budget, which should include looking at potential raises for all county employees, both elected officials and county employees,” White said.

“In addition to the bonuses that we gave?” Justice Sylvester Belcher asked.

White answered, “Yes…Sylvester we haven’t given any raises in quite some time. And we’ve been doing it with bonuses and that’s a good thing. If given a choice between a raise and a bonus, 95 percent of employees…tell me, that they’d prefer it in a bonus, because they get it all in a lump sum and it’s right before Christmas. But if we don’t work on base hourly positions, then we are going to fall further and further and further behind…until we are so far behind the JESEP program [an index that compares salaries for comparable jobs regionally]…that we won’t get anybody to work for us…we have to work on these base salaries for everybody, elected and hourly…but we can’t do it unless we have the money.”

“You’re right,” Belcher agreed.

Justice Ken Kennemore added, “I’d hope that that [raises] would be the first amendment if we can.”

White pledged, “In January or February, if it still looks like we think today, then I’m going to come and we’re going to talk real hard.”

A few of the changes made from the 2017 budget rollover to 2018 budget were specifically mentioned.

“Sheriff, the one thing that we did with your jail budget. We did it on the revenue side. We bumped up the transfers out of County General into County Jail from what they were this year. And your 2018 budget on the county jail is virtually the exact same budget as it was this year. We didn’t change your budget, but it’s taking more money to run your budget this year than we anticipated and we are trying to make it more accurate…it puts us at about $1.5 million,” White explained.

White also announced that there were a few increases to the Election Commission and to the County Clerk’s budget since 2018 will be an election year

Lastly, White thanked all of the elected officials, particularly the Assessor, the Collector and the Treasurer for their help in preparing the budget. He also gave special thanks to Kelli Jones, the Financial Management Director “for all the work that you’ve done in helping put this together. This was Kelli’s first budget run on her own like this and she’s actually done an exceptional job on this, especially under the circumstances that she has had to deal with this fall.”