Supervisor Barfield talks about taxes and community development

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“One of my favorite things about being a supervisor is really understanding how our local government works,” said District 5 Supervisor Kelle Barfield.

It’s a labyrinthine puzzle that county supervisors navigate, balancing needs with resources to ensure our tax dollars benefit the community in real and lasting ways. Recently, Supervisor Barfield sat down with the Vicksburg Daily News to discuss some of those processes and share updates on various projects the council is working on, such as the waterfront park, a new fire station, and the improvement of county roads.

A point of pride for Barfield is the council’s commitment to stable mileage rates, ensuring that citizens will not have to pay more ad valorem taxes on their homes, car tags, utilities, commercial facilities and rental properties. Keeping taxes low is a priority for all comptrollers, of course, because it’s in the best interests of the citizens they represent. At the same time, the costs associated with maintaining public facilities and infrastructure, like everything else, continue to rise.

“We know there’s so much need here in Warren County and yet we don’t want to raise people’s taxes if we don’t have to,” Barfield said. “We are working really hard to be really good stewards and looking at how we can use the [tax] dollars to support the greater good.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors is currently operating with projected total budget revenue of $41,578,491. Of this amount, 67% is financed by a total ad valorem tax levy of 117.77 thousandths. In order to keep the mileage stable, supervisors have worked diligently to obtain grants and other funding to not only maintain Warren County’s public assets, but also to make improvements and promote the growth of the community.

“Warren County received approximately $8.8 million in the American Rescue Plan Act in addition to what was given to the state, and ultimately through our state legislature, was given to Warren County, through the infrastructure bill and other sources of funding,” Barfield explained. .

Funds from federal grants and state stipends create immense opportunities, but they also come with restrictions on how and when the money can be used. Long processes are built in to ensure accountability and compliance. As the old saying goes, the cogs of government turn slowly.

“What happened, however, was that in January the US Treasury … significantly relaxed those rules. They allowed us, for example, to use those ARPA dollars for things like roads and bridges,” Barfield explained. “This is a unique opportunity to invest, what I really consider to be an investment, in a paving plan. If we can invest some of those dollars in road improvements, then we can spend the budget dollars that we have on other needs.

The council has developed a two-year paving plan and has already set the wheels in motion towards this goal. At their last meeting, the board gave permission to post bids on the project and expects to select a contractor by vote in mid-June. At this point they will work with the contractor to finalize the most effective order of the various roads that have been targeted to be treated with revetment, spot paving or paving.

“In addition to the paving plan and the ability to use ARPA dollars to bring improvements and necessary maintenance to as many people in the county as possible, another example would be very careful maintenance. importance given to our health service.”

Barfield says the Warren County Health Department needs to upgrade its HVAC system and IT infrastructure, both of which are very expensive but essential for the facility to provide quality care services to residents.

Another project that the council has undertaken concerns finally the wall of the courthouse. An initial cost estimate that included the four walls defining the courthouse came to $2 million.

“So we applied for a grant from the Department of Archives and History. We didn’t get much, but we did get state funding for it, but Senator Hopson and other state officials, knowing how important our historic assets are, were able to send to Warren County a portion of the state dollars. So now we have 3 quarters of a million dollars to repair, initially, just the north and west walls.

Barfield said the architect will work with historic restoration experts to calculate a new cost estimate for the repair and then, she said, “we’ll see how far that money goes.”

The county was also able to secure funding for a new fire station in the Bovina area, an upgrade that will enhance emergency response capabilities and impact insurance rating – reducing utility costs. insurance for residents of this region.

“Thanks to State Fire Marshal and Insurance Commissioner Mike Cheney and, again, state lawmakers, we were able to get some money…it allowed them to take what was at the originated an estimate of $600,000 to build a new facility, and instead they were able to identify an existing structure for an initial investment of around $75,000 just from fire department funds and build a satellite facility .

Golding Park

The property donated by the Goldings to Oak and Lee in Vicksburg. Photo by David Day

Renewed cooperation between Warren County and the City of Vicksburg is another catalyst for growth and betterment in our community. One of the most recent examples of this partnership is the Riverfront Park project.

“The Golding family has been incredibly gracious to this community in offering to donate beautiful land to relocate the site. Now we need to get official approval from the federal government, as this was part of a grant that created the first waterfront park there. So this is another example of having to go through slow and methodical steps to get there. Meanwhile, city and county councils agreed to get community feedback.

Each official has selected one member of an advisory committee, for a total of eight, who will review each of the conceptual designs that have been drafted, analyze the cost of the various elements against their potential benefits, and make recommendations to report to the two boards.

“They might say ‘here’s what you can do with $6 million, but if you don’t have $6 million, here’s our recommendation for priority implementation’ and maybe you phase it in, maybe you are looking for public-private partnerships.”

With input from the committee, county and city leaders will work together to formulate a finalized plan and budget for the new park.

Each of these projects is going to take some time to come to fruition, but there are some exciting upgrades to look forward to. In the meantime, the Warren County Board of Supervisors will continue to work to create opportunity and lay the foundation for a vibrant and thriving community.

“We are constantly researching how we can bring in resources, show our good faith and interest in growth in Warren County, and then work with state and local officials to try to attract investment.”


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