Sumrall budget steady; no increase in taxes

By HASKEL BURNS,

Sumrall residents will not see any raise in taxes this year, and although the upcoming Fiscal Year 2020 budget shows that expenditures will outweigh revenue, the city will have enough cash on hand to cover any differences caused by projects or loans.

The budget was adopted Sept. 3 by the Sumrall Board of Aldermen and will go into effect Oct. 1, with total general revenue of $1.146 million and total expenditures of $1.831 million.

“We did not see a need to raise any kind of taxes this year, because we could meet the budget’s needs without doing so,” Mayor Heath Sumrall said. “We did not raise water and sewer rates; we did not raise any garbage fees.

“I’m happy with it – if we can get half of our projects complete and we didn’t have to raise people’s taxes to do so, I feel like that’s a good thing. I feel like we’re doing what we should do to properly manage the public’s money.”

Expenditures include $392,784.57 for general government, $526,170.24 for the police department, $58,600 for the fire department, $69,655 for municipal court, $771,264.91 for public works and $13,469.94 for the library, parks and recreation.

Sumrall said two public works grants – one for a new traffic light and another for a sidewalk project – are the main reasons for the $685,855 difference between general revenues and expenditures.

“We accounted for them for special revenue, but we had to put in a match for those grants,” he said. “So that inflated our budget.

“That’s not an error; that’s not a loan we’re accounting for – that is the actual numbers that we have in the budget. But we have enough cash on hand in our general fund to make up the difference if we get those projects completed in this budget year.”

There also were several new expenses added to this year’s budget, including the city’s membership to the Mississippi Main Street Association and the hiring of part-time Main Street coordinator, which cost almost $10,000.

“Professional fees, as far as planning and development and engineering, was a little bit inflated because of the projects we have going on,” Sumrall said. “We wanted to make sure we put enough in there to cover the engineering fees, and we’re still trying to complete the comprehensive plan and the zoning ordinance upgrade through Slaughter and Associates.

“So the professional fees, we had to inflate that number just a little bit. And at the rate of speed these projects are going, they might not be done this year, but we had to have it available in case it was.”

The city also had to promote a full-time clerk to the municipal court.

“We had to put her full time and she’ll be at the police station full time starting October 1,” Sumrall said. “She was a part-time clerk, but now we’ve had to move her up to a full-time clerk due to the need.

“So we had to boost her salary a bit because of the increased hours.”

City officials also intend to buy a new backhoe this year, and have budgeted $300,000 in street improvements. The lighting budget also increased slightly because of improved LED lights around town.

Utility expenditures for Fiscal Year 2020 are $1.616 million, while utility revenues are somewhat less at $1.082 million. That difference accounts for a $700,000 loan from the Mississippi Development Authority for the Mississippi 589 water project that is underway in the city.

“We have to account for that loan, but we probably won’t use but $200,000 or maybe $300,000, depending,” Sumrall said. “We’ve got enough cash on hand in our water and sewer account, that we’re probably going to try to pay for as much of that water line as we can before we have to borrow any money.

“But we still had to account for the $700,000 that we have secured through the MDA. So that’s why the utility (budget) looks inflated.”

The Fiscal Year 2020 budget does not include any funds received for the sports complex on Mississippi 42, as those monies are set aside in a special projects revenue fund.

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