Lamar County expect to see the best financial fiscal year in quite some time, based on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget that shows a total budget of $79.89 million against expenditures of $54.54 million and a county assessed value of $670.46 million.
In addition, the budget - which was approved at the Sept. 7 meeting of the Lamar County Board of Supervisors and takes effect Oct. 1 - will feature no increase in ad valorem taxes, as the total tax levy will remain at the Fiscal Year 2021 rate of 124.15 mills. A mill, which is used to determine the rate of property taxes, is equivalent to a hundredth of a dime or a tenth of a cent.
“I feel real good about the budget, and I think we’re in as good - if not better - financial shape than we’ve been in,” county administrator Jody Waits said. “Not that we’ve been in bad shape; I think we’re in really good shape.
“Also in that budget is to finish the (upcoming) fire training center (on Central Industrial Row in Purvis). So we feel real good about it, and we’re going to be able to do some really good things."
The current Fiscal Year 2022 county assessed value of $670.46 is an increase of $18.41 million, or 2.8 percent, over the previous fiscal year. That net growth will increase the value of a mill by $15,377, to a total value of $570,291 per mill.
The new budget includes $4 million in road bond projects, increased funding for children’s social services and increased funding for law enforcement. In addition, the Solar Field Fee-In-Lieu from the two solar farms in Sumrall will generate approximately $1 million, which will be distributed proportionately to the Lamar County Board of Supervisors and the Lamar County School District.
The budget also features the first payment from the American Rescue Plan of 2021, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill issued by the federal government to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tentatively, those funds can be used for infrastructure, broadband Internet and water/sewer.
“Obviously, the influx of money from the American Rescue Plan is going to help us to do some additional things that we wouldn’t normally have the money to do,” Waits said. “There are other uses (besides the aforementioned) allowable, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Right now, some of the uses we’ve talked about would be improving the air quality in some of the main buildings, such as the chancery courthouse, the tax office and the jail facility. So some of that money is for improving the HVAC systems so that the air circulates better, and we have better control over that and it operates more efficiently. We want to make those spaces as safe as we can, as far as the air quality in them."
Of the $54.54 million in expenditures, general government will get the largest allocation, at 35 percent. That is followed by public works at 30 percent, public safety at 24 percent, debt services at 4 percent, culture and recreation at 3 percent, interfund at 2 percent, economic development at 1 percent, health and welfare at 1 percent and conservation of natural resources at 0 percent.
Of the county’s millage, 50 percent will go to the Lamar County School District, 26 percent will go to the general county fund, 13 percent will go to roads and bridges, 4 percent will go to sanitation, 3 percent will go to fire protection, 2 percent will go to Pearl River Community College, 1 percent will go to parks and recreation, and 1 percent will go to other measures.
“And of course, we’ve got the sawmill (upcoming in Lumberton) coming online in the next budget,” Waits said. “So this particular budget doesn’t even include the fee we’ll get from the sawmill."