Pine Belt city tax revenues on target for year

Pine Belt city tax revenues on target for year

PINE BELT (WDAM) - Mississippi lawmakers headed back to Jackson Tuesday to fix a budget gap because state tax revenue collections fell short of projections, but that is not the case for cities in the Pine Belt.

"Our revenue is actually coming in on target," Petal Mayor Hal Marx said. "Maybe a little bit above what we anticipated."

Petal, along with Laurel and Hattiesburg, has a fiscal year that runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, while the state's fiscal year runs July 1 to June 30.

Marx said the city has already collected more than 80 percent of the revenue it anticipated for this year, and there are still three months left to collect.

"Being at 81 percent when you're only at 66 percent of the year is obviously a good thing," he said. "We feel like our revenue is going to be good for the year."

Petal budgeted to collect $3.2 million in property taxes and has already collected more than $3.1 million.

"We're only about $63,000 short, and we still have three months left in our fiscal year," Marx said. "So we feel like we're going to make that and a little bit more."

In property taxes, Petal expected to bring in $2.47 million, and as of May 31, the city had already collected over $1.6 million.

"We're right on target with that," he said. "Maybe just a smidgen above, so our main sources of revenue are coming in very well."

The city of Laurel planned to collect more than $8.5 million, and is only about $2 million short with three months left in the fiscal year.

The city of Hattiesburg's Chief Financial Officer Sharon Waits did not return WDAM 7 News' calls requesting a copy of the city's tax revenue collections, but Councilman Carter Carroll said based on the council's last conversation with Waits, Hattiesburg is projected to collect the tax revenue expected.

"We're on target for this year, so we didn't have to make any adjustments to the budget," Carroll said.

Carroll said one way Hattiesburg tries to accurately estimate its revenues is using a no-growth budget.

"What we've done for years, the city council has always gone with a zero-growth budget," Carroll said. "By that I mean, this coming year we will budget the amount of revenue we received this year. If we were to try to guess what our revenue was going to be for next year at this time, it would be strictly a guess. It's easier to add things to the budget mid-year than it is to take away from the budget mid year."

Marx said using the previous year's revenues as an estimate for the next is essential for Petal's budgeting process as well.

"It does no good to over estimate at the beginning of the year, and have to come back and cut, sort of like the state usually has to do every year it seems," Marx said. "We would rather not have to come in and ask our department heads to cut their budgets. By the time you get to June of July, it's a little late to start trying to find savings. A lot of their big purchases have already been made. We just don't have to worry about making cuts."

Marx said right now, Petal's 2016 revenues may be more than estimated, and the extra money will be added to the city's rainy day fund.

"Hopefully if we have a little bit more come in than anticipated, you are able to build up your surplus, build up your bank account," he said. "Then if you do have an unexpected expense come up the next year or if for some reason revenues fall off the next year, you've got some rainy day funds, as the state calls it, available so you don't have to make immediate cuts or immediately raise taxes or anything like that."