Meridian Star

September 10, 2013

County set to approve $55.5 million budget

By Terri Ferguson Smith /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — A $10 million increase in assessed property values is giving Lauderdale County the first increase in revenues in at least four years, according to county officials. That represents a 1 percent increase in the overall property values.

    Joe McCraney, county administrator, presented the 2013-2014 budget on Monday during a public hearing that drew no responses from the public. The Lauderdale Board of Supervisors is expected to pass the budget of $55.5 million at a special meeting on Thursday at 2 p.m.

    The increase in assessments comes largely from additional value of public utilities; the pipelines to the power plant under construction in Kemper County, McCraney said.

    County officials will not raise taxes this year, keeping the tax rate the same.

    "I don't know very many counties that have been able to keep their millage rate at 56.7 mills, which ours is, for the last four years when the assessed value has dropped three out of the four years," McCraney said. "I commend the board for that. They did a good job at holding down expenses. I put that record up against anybody's."

    In his presentation, McCraney said there were $56.7 million worth of requests received and reviewed by the Board.

    Expenses that had the most significant impact on operations in this year's budget include an increase of $162,000 in the PERS employer portion of retirement expenses, an increase of $87,000 in property and liability insurance expenses and additional costs related to the jail.

    The Sheriff's Department jail and juvenile detention budget increased a total of $457,000, which included funding for two more deputies, increased medical fees, feeding prisoners, cost pool overages, additional cost of housing inmates out of county and increased cost from $100 to $125 for housing juveniles, McCraney's report said.

    "The national recession is continuing to have negative impacts on the economy that results in state budget cuts," McCraney's report said. "We will have to closely monitor homestead reimbursement payments, drug task force funding, state aid road funding, fire and economic development grants, and lobby the Legislature to fully fund MDOC for reimbursement for state parole violators held in our county jail whose cost are fully absorbed by the county revenues and cause over-crowding."