A proposed county tax decrease failed for lack of a second on Tuesday as supervisors adopted a $63.2 million budget for 2015.

District 3 Supervisor Gerald Steen proposed a decrease in taxes by .5 mills - the same amount as the tax increase he spearheaded in 2012 - that would have been equivalent to roughly $600,000.

Steen said he proposed the increase in 2012 because of mounting bills left over by prior administrations. He said the county was in good shape financially and that reserves had more than doubled to over $10 million.

"It's time to give the money back to taxpayers in Madison County at this point," he said.

District 2 Supervisor Ronny Lott was staunchly opposed to the 2012 increase but said Steen's approach Tuesday was off-the-cuff.

"I think we have a good budget," he said. "I was on the committee. Had it been something that have been discussed at a lengthy matter, by all means I could have supported it. It's not prudent management to cut on a whim without knowing the effect."

Board President and District 4 Supervisor Karl Banks said half-a-mill wouldn't be very noticeable to homeowners and that's it's not healthy economically to stagger back and forth with millage rates.

"It's going in the right direction," he said. "A stable millage rate is better for economic development than to be playing games with millage."
Banks said the tax decrease was political theatre as the board enters a new election year.

"I've seen it in the past," he said. "When you give some millage cuts that are somewhat minor, the taxpayers really won't see it. What happens is you reduce the income of the county to the point where some point in the future you have to go back zen raise millage again."

He added, "As a taxpayer myself, I'd rather know that my taxes are gonna stay level rather then continue to bounce around because some supervisor or two want to make a little cut that really don't do anything to help me."

Steen offered up another suggestion, which was approved unanimously. His motion to move approximately $600,000 from the general fund cash balance to pay for asphalt for municipalities was met with no opposition.

The adopted budget includes $3 million in reserves spread out amongst all funds, including $750,000 for the general fund.

The total budget is $63.2 million, down $2.3 million from the year before.

According to County Administrator Mark Houston, the decrease is representative of one-time money, including some spent at Sulphur Springs Park and an appropriation to the Madison County Economic Development Authority.

The county will be spending $225,000 on electronic poll books, $100,000 for repairs to Wheatley Street in Ridgeland, $200,000 for repairs to the Health and Human Services building in Canton, and $84,000 in funding for Lost Rabbit.

Last year, the county began with approximately $7 million in reserves which has grown to between $10.5 million to $11 million.