August 1, 2008

Harrison County Supervisors Hear Nearly All Budget Needs

By Melissa M. Scallan, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Aug. 1--GULFPORT -- The Harrison County Board of Supervisors on Thursday wrapped up three days of budget workshops and heard from nearly all department heads about their money needs for the next fiscal year.

But supervisors won't get what likely will be their biggest budget request until Monday when Sheriff Melvin Brisolara presents his budget to county leaders. The board likely will meet with Brisolara on Tuesday to go over the budget.

On Thursday, supervisors met with representatives from the county attorney's office, parks and fairgrounds, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, sand beach, the Long Beach Public Library and the tax assessor.

Willis Lott, president of MGCCC, said the college needs an additional $350,000 for debt service. County leaders said increased property values normally give the college what it needs, and they don't have to raise taxes.

"The bottom line is that without your support, this community college couldn't exist," Lott told the board. "We're just like everybody else. Our operational expenses are increasing and we gave the lowest raise in the state to our employees."

Enrollment dropped 39 percent because of Hurricane Katrina, Lott said, but now the college is just 2 percent below pre-storm enrollment.

Supervisors also met with George Mixon, fire services director, who told the board he needs an increase of $585,000 for two new fire stations, new trucks and employee raises.

"Everybody's moving to the unincorporated areas," Mixon said. "As that happens, these people will need more services."

Supervisors agreed that they need to start planning for some stations to be staffed full time. Mixon said the stations considered for 24-7 fire service will depend on the volume of calls.

The board must pass the budget by mid-September, and the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.


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