Super disagree on 2018 budget

By BUSTER WOLFE,

One Lamar County Supervisor believes the Fiscal Year 2018 budget that was passed by the Board on Tuesday is facing stiff financial difficulties because of the expenses that are expected in the upcoming year.

District 4 Supervisor Dale Lucus, who was the lone vote against approving the budget during a hearing Tuesday, said he is concerned about the direction that the county is headed.

“The numbers are just not adding up,” he said Wednesday. “We are losing money and I’m afraid someone is going to try to patch (the budget) by borrowing money. That is a ridiculous way to do things.”

Lucus said the board will not do what it needs to do to stop the excessive spending.

“Board members will not make the necessary cuts,” he said. “We could potentially be doubling our debt. One more disaster and we could bury ourselves.”

County Administrator Joseph “Jody” Waits presented the budget figures during the hearing Tuesday at the William J. “Pete” Gamble III Chancery Courthouse. He said the millage rate would not increase for the 17th year.

“Through good budgeting and the increase in valuation, we see no need to increase the tax levy,” he said. “Although the (Lamar County) schools had some budgeting problems due to the lack of Accelerated Growth, we will still meet their dollar request with the levy and we will fund their needs. It is interesting to see that the largest tax dollars that you levy on the part of the county is in the school system. The next-largest part is General Government, followed by Road and Bridge.”

Waits said the county has seen growth of about $12.3 million, 2.3 percent over the previous year.

“We had a spike in growth in 2016 because some things came on the tax rolls,” he said. “The 2.3 percent is in line with what growth has been consistently over many years.”

The overall budget for FY2018 is $52,885,400. There will be a light increase in cash balance over the previous year –  5.66 percent increase over FY2017.

The biggest expenditure in the budget is Public Works (roads, sanitation and building and grounds). General Government is the next largest with general county expenditures.

Lucus said he raised questions about the budget because he believes it is underfunded.

“I was put into this position to look out for the people who elected me,” he said, “and for the taxpayers in the county.”