Lamar Co. budget sees increased assessed value, no raise in millage

By HASKEL BURNS,

Lamar County officials are pleased with the upcoming Fiscal Year 2020 budget that features a 5.75 percent increase in assessed value over last year and keeps millage at the same rate as the last 16 years.

The budget, which was passed Tuesday by the Lamar County Board of Supervisors and goes into effect Oct. 1, shows the county’s assessed value is $635.94 million, an increase of $36.5 million from last year. Because of net growth in the county, the value of a mill will increase by $31,686, up to $539,980.

“That budget includes no tax levy increase,” Lamar County Administrator Jody Waits said. “Within that budget, we did have an increase in value from last year to this year, which gives us a little more money to work with, which is good.

“We were able to fully fund the sheriff’s department, the road department, all our departments, along with new things that need to be done to continue the services. One important thing within the budget, which is key to this conservative board, is that it has an adequate carryover – in case there’s a disaster or something happens, we don’t have to go borrow money.”

Total budget for the county is $54.46 million, with a total budget ending cash balance of $12.93 million. The general budget is $28.74 million, while the general budget ending cash balance is $5.09 million.

Approximately 29.3 percent of Fiscal Year 2020’s budget goes to public works, with 29.2 percent for general government and 27.8 percent for public safety. Smaller portions of the budget are allotted to debt services (3.3 percent), culture and recreation (3.7 percent), health and welfare (2.2 percent), economic development (2.5 percent), interfund (1.6 percent) and conservation of natural resources (0.3 percent).

The total tax levy for the county, including the Lamar County School District will remain at 124.15 mills.

The majority of that millage is dedicated to education at 51.3 mills, followed by 25.8 mills for general county and 12.7 mills for roads and bridges. Sanitation will receive 4.4 mills, while 1 mill will go to parks and recreation, 3.2 to fire protection, 1.2 to “other” and 0.5 to bonds.

Waits said although the county’s millage has not increased, homeowners may see their property taxes rise slightly because the value of their homes have increased.

“That helps us, though, because we don’t have to raise the millage and we can continue to operate,” he said. “In a county that grows fast, it’s a double-edged sword. We have a bit of a lag time in the requirements for services, roads and that kind of thing.

“We have to go and take care of those things, and then taxes are collected a year behind that. So if we’re not careful, we could run upside down trying to fund those services.”

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