FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - For the first time in several years, Forrest County residents will experience a tax increase.
Board of Supervisors President David Hogan said the increase will be $1.90 for county residents and $19 for residents inside the city limits of Petal and Hattiesburg.
"The expenses have just exceeded our revenues, and we don't have a lot of choice but to have a small millage increase this year," Hogan said.
Hogan said the increases will go toward the new judgeship that will be added to the Forrest County Circuit Court after the November election. That addition requires the renovation of the old jail for office and court space, in addition to personnel costs.
The county also projected a rise in medical coverage for county employees due to implementation of the Affordable Care Act, as well as an increase in utility costs due to the Kemper County Power Plant.
Hogan also said the county is adding four full-time firefighters, which is another reason the tax increase was necessary. He explained the city was under a mutual aid agreement with the City of Petal to use their firefighters as needed, but Petal Mayor Hal Marx said that formal agreement ended when the city was told their fire rating would be negatively impacted if they continued to be the first responders and cover such a large area outside of the city. Marx said Petal firefighters were intended to be supplemental to Forrest County volunteer firefighters, but that was not what was happening under the agreement.
Hogan said the difference between the county and city tax increases were due to the Forrest County School District's request to trim their millage to offset the increase in the county.
"There's some expenses that will hopefully do better than we project, and that being the case over the next year or two, hopefully we can give some of that millage back," Hogan said of projects such as paying off the bond for the multipurpose center.