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Officials: No surplus' in county budget

By By Chris Allen Baker/staff writer
Feb. 17, 2002
Figures that some local taxpayers insist show Lauderdale County with an $11.9 million budget "surplus" do not tell the whole story, according to county officials.
Upon close examination of county budget records, whether a surplus exists at all is open to interpretation.
County Administrator Rex Hiatt said while certain funds may appear to be usable, they are not actually available because of binding obligations due to state law or county policy.
The Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors has proposed establishing a $5 million line of credit with the Mississippi Development Bank at 2.95 percent interest. Some taxpayers say the line of credit is unnecessary and the results of a petition drive to cause an election on the issue are expected to be announced Tuesday.
Supervisors said they plan to use the line of credit to fund as much of $8.3 million in critical needs as possible, as detailed on a list announced last month.
Opponents of the line of credit proposal, including county residents Ruth Scott and William Hughes and others have asked in public board meetings why supervisors cannot use what they describe as a "surplus" to meet the needs.
Hiatt released figures this week showing categories of the county budget with a balance of $11,934,022.
Hiatt explained that the general fund is the only one of five funds within the county budget where officials have any discretionary use of monies. By law, the other funds can only be used for specific purposes.
Between October and February, the only significant revenue received by the county comes from taxes on tag sales and few other dollars that might trickle in from various sources, he said.

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