OKTIBBEHA COUNTY — Taxes are staying level in Oktibbeha County.
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to approve a Fiscal Year 2023 budget with no change in ad valorem taxation during a Monday night special meeting. Board president Bricklee Miller was not present as she is dealing with a medical issue with a family member.
The levy will stay at 124.61 mills. Of that figure, 58.61 is Oktibbeha County’s tax request, with the Starkville-Oktibbeha County Consolidated School District levying 66 mills.
Next year’s $60,884,625 budget is balanced, County Administrator Delois Farmer told the board, with the value of a mill increasing from $422,828 to $448,737.
The budget also includes a 3 percent cost of living raise for full-time county employees.
One of the biggest changes to the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, which begins Oct. 1, is the addition of $600,000 for a county court, Farmer said.
“January 1, 2023, we have to start county court,” she said. “That is something that is totally new to us. We’ve talked to the (county) administrator in Lowndes County, because they currently have one, and it kind of gave us a blueprint to go by.”
The budget line item includes adding a judge, three deputy clerks, a court administrator and a court reporter.
Due to Oktibbeha County exceeding a population of 50,000, Gov. Tate Reeves approved the creation of a county court in January. It will be a middle court between justice and circuit courts, as well as overseeing youth court.
The new court system will be housed in the chancery courthouse on the second floor, she said, but the county hopes to eventually get it out into its own building.
Three candidates — Bruce Brown, Marty Haug and Lee Ann Turner — have qualified to run for county court judge. The contest will be decided in the Nov. 8 general election.
The budget also includes a total of about $8.2 million in county money for the Road Department. About $4.2 million is set aside for the county road fund, $3.9 million for the county bridge fund and $54,550 in State Aid money. Those figures are unchanged from last year.
The county is getting plenty of other state money, though, with state appropriations money funding work on Oktoc Road and Sturgis-Maben Road. Each got $1 million from the legislature.
The budget also includes some additional funding for the libraries.
The numbers as presented Monday night called for $275,000 to go to the Starkville-Oktibbeha Public Library, with $7,500 each going to the libraries in Sturgis and Maben. However, District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard asked that an additional $15,000 be given to the Maben library as a one-time allocation, raising its total share to $22,500.
While the county has given Sturgis’ library $7,500 a year since 2019, that money was never given to Maben’s library, although supervisors did discuss it at the time. Howard told The Dispatch last month he planned to ask for the money, and Monday night he followed through.
He moved to give the library the extra funding this year, and $7,500 a year thereafter. His motion was seconded by District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery and passed unanimously.
The money for the increase will come out of the general fund, Farmer said.
Without support from the county, the library was slated to be cut back to 2 1/2 days of operation per week.
Absent from the budget discussions was funding to repair the dam at Oktibbeha County Lake. Water levels at the lake have been drained to the point that the lake is unusable since January 2020, when county officials reported the dam was in danger of failing.
The project is estimated to cost between $15 million and $17 million.
Farmer told The Dispatch that the potential dam project was not reflected in the budget.
The county is pursuing a $13 million federal Natural Resources Conservation Service grant to fund the bulk of the project, but Farmer said she did not know what the status of that grant was.
“I have no idea about that part of it,” she said.
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.
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