No objection aired during county budget meeting

By Sean Dunlap
Franklin Advocate

With no residents present for the Franklin County Board of Supervisors’ fiscal year 2021 public budget hearing on Monday, Sept. 14, county leaders  — as promised — kept the area’s millage rate on par with last year’s assessment.

The county’s FY 21 budget, which is slated to begin Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 and runs through Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, is expected to generate $6,530,605 in projected revenues.

Of this amount, $3,692,815 will come through the ad valorem tax levy — that’s about 56.5 percent of all county income during the new budget cycle.

County officials spent much of August in a series of meetings whittling away at a litany of expenses while focusing on anticipated revenues and ultimately hammering out a plan without having to raise taxes.

“The levy you’re getting today — 110 mills — is the same we talked about weeks ago,” Chancery Clerk Jill Jordan Gilbert told the panel to start Monday’s meeting.“Again, this means the county is not increasing ad valorem taxes on homes, automobile tags, utilities, business fixtures and equipment, and rental real property.”

Gilbert noted the FY 21 millage rate is expected to produce the same amount of revenue to the county from ad valorem taxes as was collected during this budget year.

“About the only real concern that I’ve heard (about the budget proposal) was about paying off the hospital bonds and concerns about taking away money from the hospital,” Gilbert said.

In the new budget, supervisors opted to pay off a series of bonds issued in 2003 to modernize and improve facilities and infrastructure at Franklin County Memorial Hospital.

During last week’s regular meeting of the supervisors, Vic Scott, a member of the hospital board, said the health care facility’s oversight panel was fine with the county paying the indebtedness off, but requested use of the funds previously allocated to the bond payment for the hospital.

Under the budget plan approved Monday, the 2.02 mills in taxes previously set aside to pay off the hospital bonds was redistributed — with supervisors increasing funds for ongoing general maintenance of the hospital.

The millage for hospital maintenance was set at 1.28 in the new budget, up from 1.18 mills this year.

“We’re not cutting them out,” District 5 Supervisor and Board President Jimmie “Bodi” Bass said.

“The hospital is an important part of this community, and paying off these bonds will hopefully help the county’s overall budget picture.”

District 4 Supervisor Pat Larkin said he had also been contacted prior to the meeting by some residents concerned about hospital funding.

“I explained to them why we were paying off the bonds and that none of us on this board were trying to throw the hospital away,” Larkin added.

Additionally, Bass said he hoped any savings seen in not having to continue paying principal and interest on the bonds — through their maturity in 2023 — could potentially be reinvested in the hospital facility in the years to come.

Larkin made the motion to adopt the tax levy plan and Bass seconded.

The vote to approve the budget proposal and tax levy as submitted was unanimous.

Here is a breakdown of the 110 mills distribution in funding county operations during FY 21. Millage for the current budget year, as a comparison, appears in parenthesis:

• General funding — 31.84 (30.85).
• Franklin County Public Library — 0.75 (0.81).
• Reappraisal maintenance — 1.40 (1.47).
• County hospital maintenance — 1.28 (1.18).
• County-wide Road and Bridge Fund — 16.00 (17.00).
• Bridge and culvert construction and maintenance — 2.06 (2.05).
• School District maintenance and incidental expenses — 47.59 (46.42).
• Copiah-Lincoln Community College support and maintenance — 1.25 (1.36).
• Copiah-Lincoln Community College improvements — 1.20 (1.31).
• Reappraisal cost defrayment — 0.92 (0.98)
• Sanitation services — 3.96 (4.0).
• Economic development — 1.50 (.38).
• Rural fire protection — 0.25 (0.17).

The levy also includes a forest acreage tax of an aggregate of nine cents per acre on all timbered and uncultivated land in the county — the same as this budget year.

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