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Cost to do business keeps on rising

Calhoun County Supervisors acknowledged Monday morning they are going to have to raise taxes at least one mil just to maintain current services at the same level, but to answer requests, some very legitimate from various department heads, it could take up to a four mil increase.

That’s certainly not a fun place to be in as an elected official, but it’s becoming more and more common every year when budget time rolls around.

Whether on the national, state or local level, we’ve all experienced a significant increase over the past decade in the cost to do business. Talk to any small business owner, and they’ll tell you their revenue has increased slightly over the years, but their operating costs have increased exponentially more, slicing previous profit margins.

The same holds true for government. In the same Monday meeting, supervisors were told to perform the badly needed level and seal job on county roads in every district in the county — a once a term project costing over $1 million — they will have to cut the project back and re-advertise because the bids all came in way, nearly 20 percent, over budget.

Material costs were the big culprit, Engineer Chodie Myers said. Despite a drop in fuel costs, asphalt prices have continued to rise making road work incredibly difficult, especially for small towns and rural counties such as Calhoun. Although Myers was quick to point out to me he sees this in every county he works with.

Among the many budget needs presented to the supervisors was a request for two more full-time deputies by Sheriff Greg Pollan. He presented a convincing case. Calhoun currently has four full-time deputies, while neighboring counties of similar size and population have more than twice that. He said he is tied for 81st among the 82 counties in Mississippi for fewest deputies.

“It’s not even an option,” he told the supervisors. “I’ve got to have more help.”

It’s not that supervisors weren’t unconvinced of the sheriff’s need or any of the others, only where the money is going to come from.

Calhoun’s tax base is small and getting smaller. The county is becoming more dependent on the state to uphold its level of funding and that’s not happening. Unfunded mandates from the legislature, which they are quick to criticize when it’s done to them by the federal government, is partly responsible for the one mil minimum increase supervisors have swallowed.

Legislators did nothing this past session with long overdue proposals to maintain, never mind improve, our road system around the state.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn did appoint a committee earlier this month to study potential reform of the state’s tax system. Perhaps they will discover it’s challenging to maintain infrastructure and fund basic needs for hard working Mississippians when you’re handing out hundreds of millions in tax breaks to foreign companies.

Regardless of what they come up with, it’s not going to address the immediate problems here in Calhoun. For the time being, that’s the unenviable task of the board of supervisors.

Joel McNeece is publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at joelmcneece@gmail.com.