Supers call for county-wide budget cuts
By Dwayne Bremer
Aug 24, 2013, 00:20
The Hancock County Board of Supervisors has ordered county department heads to slash their 2013-2014 budgets by 12 percent, prompting some to fear a loss of services and/or layoffs.
Department heads were called into budget workshops separately this week.
They were told to reduce their current budgets by 12 percent; however, it was left up to the department heads to implement the cuts.
Supervisors said this week, it is time to either make cuts or raise taxes.
"We are in a tight spot," board Vice-President Steve Seymour said Thursday. "We either have to raise the millage or cut the budget."
The county currently levees 46 mils on its taxpayers.
This year, a mil in Hancock County is worth $458,000, which is$5,000 more than last year's value.
Although the mil has increased, so has the cost to operate the county, officials said.
In the past few years, supervisors have seen an increase in insurance for county buildings; the county has has used millage to help support the E911 commission, which formerly was supported by the county, Bay St. Louis, and Waveland; and the county has incurred other expenses.
Last month, officials at the county-owned Hancock Medical Center also declared a budget crisis to supervisors and asked for their assistance.
Board President Lisa Cowand said Tuesday that the county has already taken several steps to reduce costs, but more may be needed.
"We are going to have to do more with less," Cowand said. "This is not just a Hancock County problem, but a nation-wide problem. We have a lot of people doing multiple jobs with the county."
Cowand said that supervisors do not want to raise millage; however, there may be a slight increase in utility rates.
Department heads said this week that they are worried the cuts may cause them to have to layoff employees.
Sheriff Ricky Adam said Friday that he was ordered to slash $455,000 from his budget.
Last year, supervisors discussed cutting the sheriff's budget because of increased costs associated with the new jail.
In response, the sheriff obtained a contract with the Mississippi Department of Corrections to house state inmates.
Adam said the sheriff's office is currently generating about $50,000 a month from that contract.
Adam said he was "deeply troubled" by the impending cuts.
"There is no way I can implement these cuts without laying off employees," Adam said. "You can only cut so many contracts before it comes down to people. We are finally getting things going our way, but the supervisors do not see the savings in that. We might as well put up a sign to the dopers, thugs, and thieves, saying welcome back to Hancock County."
Likewise, Tax Assessor/Collector Jimmie Ladner said Thursday that he may have to cut personnel.
Ladner was ordered to cut more than $225,000 from his budget.
"I cannot make the 12 percent without cutting personnel," Ladner said.
The county has until Sept. 15 to formally adopt its budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, which will begin in October.
Seymour said he understood the concerns of the department heads, but added, "no final decision has been made on the budget. "We are going to take a look at all of the options before we make a final decision."