September 18, 2017 10:58:30 AM
Lowndes County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a Fiscal Year 2018 budget Friday that includes a roughly $900,000 deficit.
The budget projects $46.5 million in expenditures and $45.6 million in revenue for the fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Board President Harry Sanders said the county will cover $500,000 of the deficit with grant money the county received in 2016 but never spent. The remaining $400,000 will come from reserves.
The reserve fund, Sanders said, currently holds about $7 million.
The budget includes a 2-mill property tax increase which, combined with the Lowndes County School District's taxing rate of 46.71 mills, means Lowndes property owners living outside a municipality will pay an overall rate of 88.72 mills in ad valorem taxes.
That tax increase is strictly for the building of the Communiversity, the advanced manufacturing training center set to be run by East Mississippi Community College. Lowndes County is contributing $10 million to the $38-million project. The millage increase is only effective until the county finishes repaying its debt for the Communiversity in 2027.
Increased revenue, expenses
The end to some fee-in-lieu agreements -- an incentive that allows some industries to pay one-third of the full property taxes for 10 years -- has swelled revenue by about $1.9 million, most of which will come from the Steel Dynamics Phase 1 development at the industrial park off Highway 82.
However, Board President Harry Sanders said increased payroll expenses, along with several additional projects has also increased expenditures by about $3.5 million compared to last year's total of $43.06 million.
"We're giving a 60-cent per hour raise to our employees, we added $500,000 to the paving and road department," he said. "Just the cost of doing business has gone up."
The county is also shelling out $900,000 to complete a Lowndes County Horse Park under construction west of Columbus and $300,000 to build a community center at Concord Park in the southern part of the county.
For the 2018 budget, the county also set aside $1.5 million for recreation, most of which fund the county's own parks system and $200,000 to assist the city of Columbus parks system.
As of Oct. 1, the county will officially split from the inter-local Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority and will maintain only the Soccer Complex in downtown Columbus and other parks outside the city limits.
The county will also contribute $50,000 toward the Field of Dreams construction, a planned sports field adapted for those with special needs.
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