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Supervisors discuss rainy day fund spending

The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors continued their budget meetings Wednesday, spending the morning discussing how much of the county’s cash in the general fund should be spent, and if so on what, and how much should remain for emergency situations.

Currently, the county is projecting to have $12 million in cash in its general fund at the start of fiscal year 2018, over and above the expected $15 million being brought in through other revenues.

County Administrator Lisa Carwyle presented the supervisors with a list of items some departments are requesting that is above their budget, including $835,500 for equipment in the Road Department, $315,000 for jail locks and $427,500 toward the purchase of new voting machines that will actually be purchased in 2019 with another $427,500 expected to be budgeted next year for the full price of the machines. The extra items would bring down the beginning cash by $1.5 million.

About $173,000 would go toward cost of living raises, if approved by the supervisors.

Supervisor Chad McLarty said he’s against dipping into what he considers the county’s “rainy day fund.”

“What I hear from my constituents is don’t raise taxes and don’t spend all my money,” he said. “I understand we have excess cash, but if we keep eating into it, it will eventually run out. Then we have to raise taxes.”

Supervisor Mike Roberts said the citizens are benefiting from the improvements being made possible by spending the cash.

“They’re getting better, paved roads, more firefighters, more deputies, new trash cans,” he said. “It’s not as simple as ‘don’t spend our money.’”

Board president Jeff Busby pointed out that Lafayette County has one of the lowest millage rates in the state; however, said he had no intention of voting to increase taxes.

“To provide for the growth in population, you have to keep up your departments,” he said. “This is all for equipment. I don’t see where you can start cutting.”

Supervisor Kevin Frye suggested cutting the COLA in half or not give it out every year.

“It’s excessive to give everyone across the board a raise every year,” he said. “Salaries go up every year. We have too much money in general, but I agree if you keep adding more and more and the salaries go up each year, it will eat into it.”

Carwyle said she would be more comfortable with about $7 or $8 million in cash in general fund than $12 million.

The city of Oxford keeps about $2 million in cash in its general fund.

“The economy could tank tomorrow,” McLarty said. “People’s homes could get foreclosed on and then there’s no revenue coming in. Our investments could bottom out. We just don’t know what could happen and we need to keep a cushion.”

Later during the meeting, the supervisors met with Lafayette County Fire Coordinator Wes Anderson who earlier in the budget process asked for three full-time firefighters.

Busby told Anderson that the only way he could see the county being able to fund three additional full-time salaries each year would be to raise the fire department’s millage.

“And I’m not about to ask to raise taxes this year,” Busby said.

The supervisors said they would support Anderson hiring three part-time firefighters that would be stationed at the Taylor Fire Station during the day.

Also Wednesday, the supervisors heard from Oxford Public Works Director Bart Robinson about putting up $83,000 toward a joint road survey with the city of Oxford and University of Mississippi and appointed Chad McLarty to serve on the Oxford and Lafayette County Humane Society Board of Directors.