June 17, 2013 10:04:55 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi supervisors gather on the Gulf Coast this week to talk about roads and bridges, economic development, water resources and other issues.
The core issue is money. Counties, just like municipalities, are faced with dwindling tax bases and rising costs. Something has to be done without harm to the taxpayers, says Steve A. Davis, director of governmental affairs for the Mississippi Association of Supervisors.
"Local governments are strapped," Davis told The Associated Press. "Everybody is looking for alternative ways to provide services, and no one wants to raise taxes."
The MAS convention in Biloxi opens Wednesday with a presentation by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, a Republican from Poplarville.
Frierson said he understands county officials are concerned about how revenue collections affect local reimbursement for housing state inmates, homestead exemption and local road and bridge programs.
Davis said counties are hoping for help with anticipated higher health costs with implementation of 2010 federal health care law. He said counties also want Mississippi lawmakers to keep a rural bridge replacement program funded as they did this year with a $20 million appropriation.
Frierson said the bridge replacement program is also popular with lawmakers.
"We're hoping revenues continue to keep improving," he said.
Frierson said lawmakers know local governments are struggling, and increasing the property tax burden on citizens is not popular.
"I think my term as appropriations chairman will be running around sticking fingers in dikes," Frierson told the AP. "I think we are going to catch our wind at some point, but for now we're going to muddle through this."
Frierson said tax collections have some shown improvement and the question is whether revenue growth can be sustained through this fiscal year that ends June 30 and into the next.