Forrest County to see tax increase

Forrest County to see tax increase
Photo credit: WDAM

FORREST COUNTY (WDAM) - With the budget building process underway in Forrest County, residents will be seeing a millage increase.

Forrest County Board of Supervisors President David Hogan said residents in the county and city of Petal will see an increase of around 1.4 mills and Hattiesburg will see roughly a 2 mill increase.

"If you own a $100,000 worth of property out in the county, you will see an increase of approximately 14 dollars per $100,000 of value," Hogan said. "If you live inside Petal, you'll see that same increase and Hattiesburg will be approximately a $20 increase per $100,000."

The main reason for the increase is the county's $16.5 million settlement that was reached for three wrongfully imprisoned men for the 1979 rape and murder of Eva Patterson.

Forrest County is responsible for $5.4 million, which was ordered to be paid in 120 days and Hogan said they hoped to borrow a large portion of those funds.

"During the budget process the board of supervisors learned that county's are not allowed to borrow money to pay off law suits, which was our intentions during the budget, was to be able to borrow a portion of the $5.4 million settlement and pay it out over a five year note," Hogan said. "Because we are not legally able to do that by the Mississippi Legislature, counties are not, municipalities are, we are having to pay the full amount of the settlement out of our general fund money."

With that money having to come from the general fund, or the holdover fund, Hogan said the county will be down roughly $11 million this time next year.

This is one of the things putting the county in a tight spot.

According to Hogan, it takes approximately $10 million to operate the county from September to February.

"The increase constitutes of trying to build that carry over back up and it will take eight to 10 years to get it back to where it has been in recent years," Hogan said. "We don't want to see the county to get in a position where it has to borrow money and pay its bills, that's no way to operate a business, a home or the county."

The board has only approved to advertise and publish the budget, and Hogan added taxpayers will have a chance to voice their concerns during a "protest hearing" at the Forrest County Chancery Court.

"The board can make adjustments if it seems fit to do so," Hogan said. "Nothing at this time is actually set in stone until we get things approved and finalized, but we don't want to get in a position where we have to borrow money to pay bills."