By Josh Troy
The Coahoma County Board of Supervisors’ general fund for the upcoming fiscal year will see a $655,168 increase from the current fiscal year, which runs through the end of September. However, there will be no tax increases.
According to Board of Supervisors consultant Daniel Vassel, the general fund for the 2023-24 fiscal year, set to begin on October 1st, will be $9,109,121, up from $8,453,953 in the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the proposed budget.
Vassel explained that the increase in the general fund for 2023-24 is due to $700,000 coming from Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center. As part of an agreement, the hospital pays the Board of Supervisors $700,000 instead of taxes.
The Board of Supervisors agreed to buy out the lease from Delta Health Systems and have Coahoma County run its own hospital. The County began overseeing the hospital on May 1st and has been in a transition period.
Vassel noted that the hospital’s operation is benefiting Coahoma County financially and contributed to the increase in the general fund for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
“The board, I think, has done a really good job, led by the (Crossroads) Economic Development Authority, in trying to keep the hospital up and running,” he said.
Vassel also mentioned that the County will receive gaming funds from the casino.
“It’s good that we have money available through gaming and some estimated increases in revenue that allow us to increase the budget,” he said. “We were able to transfer more money into the general fund from the gaming funds that we receive.”
Vassel added that businesses opening up after the COVID pandemic might contribute to the County receiving more gaming funds, though he couldn’t be certain.
“We’re hopeful that it’s going to increase due to the fact that things are opening up a bit more,” he said.
Vassel explained that the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Office budget will decrease by $602,754 in the upcoming fiscal year. The Sheriff’s Office budget was $2,357,832 in 2022-23 and will be $1,755,078 in 2023-24, which could lead to a loss of personnel.
However, Vassel noted that the Sheriff’s Office also has jail, emergency 9-1-1, and courthouse maintenance budgets.
Sheriff Charles Jones lost to challenger Mario Magsby in the August 8th Democratic Primary. Magsby will be facing independent Stacy Lester in the November 7th general election.
Vassel acknowledged that Magsby or Lester may want to amend the Sheriff’s Office budget after taking office on January 1, 2024.
“I think the No. 1 item on the agenda for the first meeting in January is for the Board of Supervisors to sit down with whoever occupies that office to make sure they have what they need based on the County’s available revenues, with safety being the first priority,” Vassel said.
Current Chancery Clerk Carolyn Parham is retiring at the end of the calendar year. Democratic candidates Sherita Wilson and Venesia Griffin Brown are competing for the nomination in the August 29 runoff. The winner between Wilson and Griffin Brown will face independent candidates Maria Schneider and Tasheena Galmore in the November 7th general election.
Vassel also mentioned that the new Chancery Clerk might want to amend the budget in January.
“The board is looking forward to meeting with the new person to go over things,” he said. “Because budgets are based on projections, they can always be amended.”
Vassel expects that some decisions regarding the budget will be made in 2024.
“Budgets can always be amended,” he said. “Just because the Board of Supervisors allocates a certain amount of money for a particular department, that doesn’t mean it can’t be amended at any board meeting.”
While the budget may be amended after a new Sheriff and Chancery Clerk take office in January 2024, Vassel pointed out that state statute requires a budget to be passed for the fiscal year beginning each October.
Vassel also mentioned that in 2024, the requirements for employee retirement matches will increase by 2.5%, leading to an increase in several department budgets.
“All departments with personnel will receive an increase due to an anticipated retirement match mandate from the State of Mississippi,” he said.
Vassel, Comptroller Sharde Smith, and former Comptroller and current consultant Donna McPherson all collaborated on putting the budget together.
“One of the main things is that we’ll be able to provide all the required services to the citizens of Coahoma County,” Vassel said. “This budget includes enough resources to do that.”