Desoto County News

Officials talk budget, millage at Tuesday meetings

Southaven aldermen to hold approval vote in Tuesday special meeting

Photo: Supervisors listen as County Administrator Vanessa Lynchard highlights the proposed Fiscal Year 2024 budget Tuesday in Hernando. (Bob Bakken/

Budgets, millage and taxes were the themes of Tuesday meetings for the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors and its municipalities.  

Facing state-imposed deadlines for enacting new fiscal year budgets by mid-month, supervisors and aldermen addressed the proposals each entity has been formulating over the past several weeks.

While the county, along with aldermen in Hernando, Olive Branch and Horn Lake, were holding the line to keep from increasing millage rates for property tax bills, Southaven aldermen heard public comments Tuesday night on a proposed budget that would include a millage increase of just over three mills for Fiscal Year 2024.

Director of Finance Edi McElwain opened the discussion on the budget proposal during a public hearing at Tuesday’s regular board meeting. 

McElwain pointed out the millage rate would be raised for the first time since 2006, but no utility rate or sanitation rate increases are included. Millage rate allocation would have 18 percent going to debt service and the rest to the general fund. The proposal 46.78 mills in Southaven is lower than what is expected to be charged by DeSoto County, Horn Lake, and DeSoto County Schools, but is higher than Olive Branch, Hernando, and Walls, all of which declared that they would not be increasing their millage rates.  

The additional funding would help in hiring 10 new police officers, adding 12 new police vehicles, and adding three new fire captains. There would be increases in street funding, personnel additions in several departments, improvement in parks and recreation amenities, including improvement of equipment in neighborhood parks, as well as maintenance and improvement of public infrastructure.  

Mayor Darren Musselwhite defended the millage increase by saying police and streets need to have a high priority for the city. Musselwhite said the inflation has had an impact. 

“The number one expense in the city is the police budget,” Musselwhite said. “Besides payroll, the number one and largest budget line is street resurfacing.”

Musselwhite said reinforcing the police department is important to protect a city next door to one of highest crime rate cities in the nation, Memphis.  

“When repeat offenders from Memphis go back on the street, they come to Southaven,” Musselwhite said. “What our plan is now is to secure the state line. We have got to beef up the state line. We have got to fight crime in a different way here in this city and that’s got to happen.” 

He said he had given aldermen three balanced budgets but they either cut funding to the police, or funding to street improvements.  

One resident said the effects of the tax increase will be felt by everyone, not just property taxpayers. Another resident complained that the city is continuing to ask for more money, saying rising property values mean a higher bill, even if the millage has stayed the same.  

No action was taken Tuesday, but a special meeting next Tuesday, Sept. 12, has been scheduled to consider and vote on the millage and budget for the next fiscal year. 

DeSoto County supervisors approved a budget that keeps the millage rate flat for the 20th consecutive year.

County Administrator Vanessa Lynchard touted the county’s support of many areas, including economic development, while reducing debt from $95 million in Fiscal Year 2015 to $52 million in Fiscal Year 2023.  

Calling the budget “accountable and progressive,” the county will operate with a millage rate of 41.02 mills during Fiscal Year 2024, which includes a four percent raise for county employees.  

The overall county general fund will be just under $82.9 million. The largest line item is for patrol/law enforcement in the Sheriff’s Department at $23.1 million, up by over $1.8 million.  

“All of the projects, building-wise and road-wise, are unprecedented,” Lynchard said. “The fact that the board goes out and tries to seek outside sources for revenue to fund some of the projects, is why the taxpayers have not had a millage increase in 20 years.” 

Olive Branch aldermen approved a millage rate that remained the same as previous years and also approved the budget for Fiscal Year 2024. 

The budget includes a three-percent cost-of-living increase for full time employees, a two percent increase for part time employees, seven additional full time employees with six of those being additional law enforcement officers. 

Over $4 million is being set aside for a new water plant to be located at the Craft Road water tower, $1.5 million is for hangar expansion at the Olive Branch Airport, and other budget items.  

Hernando aldermen approve budget

Hernando aldermen held a public hearing and discussed the proposed budget and tax levy which had no millage increase, later voting its approval.  

Mayor Chip Johnson said, totaling all of the funds together, the budget is more than $41 million.

“And this is being done without a tax increase,” Johnson said.  

“I think it’s a good budget and I support it as is,” said Alderman W.I. “Doc” Harris.  

Horn Lake aldermen were also scheduled to discuss and vote on its budget for the next fiscal year during a meeting Tuesday night. By state law, cities and counties are required to have a budget approved on Sept. 15 to go into effect on Oct. 1.  

Bob Bakken

Bob Bakken is the most recognized and most trusted name in DeSoto County news and sports reporting, as readers continue to express their appreciation for his accuracy and fairness in the stories he writes. Bob is also heard on 95.3 The Rebel twice a week with sports updates and high school football play-by-play broadcasts in the fall. A former newspaper editor and writer, his award-winning background also includes television news producing, sports media relations, and radio broadcasting.

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