Tax Hike Likely in '04

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Lauderdale County supervisors Tuesday attempted to cut nearly $1.2 million from their earlier budget estimates. Board president Craig Hitt said it is not easy.

"We've tried to overcome a 25 percent increase in insurance, a 3 percent increase in salaries," said Hitt. "We're behind the eight ball before we ever start, if there's not going to be a tax increase."

One dispute was between Hitt and supervisor Ray Boswell over additional dollars for the Riley Opera House project.

"We've already gave the Opera Center $3 million and you're planning
to give them two more million," Boswell said.

"No, we're not," said Hitt.

"How much are you planning to give them?" asked Boswell.

"We're not planning to give them anything today," Hitt replied.

But there will be a tax increase in Lauderdale County. The general fund will have to loan the garbage fund $250,000 to get the county through this year, and then raise the tax next year.

"Since 1999, we have $1,530,000 in unpaid garbage fees that need to be collected and $530,000 of that is 2003," said county administrator Rex Hiatt.

Since there are approximately 13,000 households in Lauderdale County those figures, if accurate, would mean about 4,000 households per year are not paying. Correct or not, the supervisors agreed millage for the garbage fund will have to be raised to four mills this year, a two mill increase.

"Our goal now is to try to fund this budget without a tax increase. Of course, what we have to do is juggle the millage," said supervisor Jimmie Smith. "But there will be an increase in the garbage fees because the auditors mandated us not to carry over money."

Other cuts as well have been proposed in the 2004 Lauderdale County budget.