The Jackson County Commissioners began their annual budget meeting for the coming fiscal year Wednesday morning. All commissioners, county administrator Ernie Padgett, constitutional officers, and department heads were present with their budget requests for the coming year.
Administrator Ernie Padgett began with an opening statement about the upcoming budget. Padgett said he felt like he needed to make some introductory comments and “get this out there before the start of the budget meetings.” Padgett said he had chosen not to go one on one with the commissioners but rather to wait until the workshop to address them all at once.
Padgett said, “As we start we are going to hear a lot about needs, some wants, but a lot about needs. You’re going to hear from the constitutionals about primarily what their needs are. Then this board will have to assess those needs. What I’d like to do is bring your attention to page three of your budget packet.” Padgett praised the work of Danielle (McDaniel), Pam (Prichard), and the clerk’s office for the amount of work put into putting the proposed budget together. Padgett continued, “Commissioners I feel like the five months that I’ve been in this position, in my opinion, we need to seriously look on the revenue side. We have to look at the expenditures of the board and of course it goes without saying that we cannot fund everything that everyone requests, there is just no way.” Padgett went on to say that at the same time, the county was responsible for maintaining an acceptable level of service for the citizens of Jackson County. Padgett said, “We are in a position here in Jackson County that we are behind, we are playing catchup and I think we need to this year, to really look at this and address it.” Padgett’s concern was for the board to be proactive with revenue and budget, “This is something I think we need to be very mindful of. For thirty something years, I’ve pledged myself as a bit of a conservative but at the same time I feel that we are responsible for funding governmental services at the level they should be funded and not extravagantly.”
Padgett said, “I made it a point to share what I am going to share all at one time and I thought the place to share it was right here in a meeting where everyone hears it at the same time. There are two revenue sources that I think we need to talk about and I just want you to think about as we go through the budget.” Padgett made reference to two areas of revenue to assist in making this happen. He referred to the millage information provided in the packet. Last year’s millage was 7.8727 and 95% of that would generate $11,496,929. This would result in an increase of $200,938 over last year’s levied taxes of $11,901,093. If the proposed millage of the current year rolled-back millage of 7.8073 were adopted, it would generate $11,401,422 at 95% of assessed property values. Padgett said, “As your county administrator, I hardly recommend that we not increase the millage rage but that we keep it at rate it is today and that’s going to mean the difference of about $200,000 that will be coming in.” Padgett reiterated that he was not recommending a millage increase but he did advise that if they were asked if they had in fact increased the millage rate, they would have to say yes but attributed that to a legislative action 30 years ago. Padgett then referenced some figures on homeowner taxable values to put the figures in perspective.
Padgett addressed another revenue source that he asked the commissioners to consider and think about, “There’s up to five cents of gas tax that’s available to this county if this board decides that. Now to pass the gas tax, it takes four of the five votes. You can’t do it on the majority.” Padgett presented what revenue would be generated with one cent and with five cents tax added to the price per gallon.
Padgett told the TIMES, “What I want to do is to be proactive with generating revenue and bring us up to today’s times. We are behind and we need to move forward and these are just some ideas for the board to consider that will allow that to happen.”
The Budget hearings will be continuing and will be reported in the TIMES.