Probate Judge responds to questions

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The judge didn’t exactly come out firing salvos Monday night in the Dallas County Commission Monday afternoon, but he managed to get his point across.

Probate Judge John Jones held court, in his own affable way, for a solid 15 minutes to start the meeting as he addressed

recent comments about the commission by City of Selma officials.

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Jones, responding to a series of articles in the Times-Journal, said recent comments by Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. that the council does not pay an equitable share of funding for the Selma/Dallas County Library were true, but they didn’t paint a full picture of the city and county’s financial situation.

“He said the county’s balanced budget was at least partially because of the city’s disproportionate coverage of services, I take serious issue with that,” Jones said.

The mayor had also introduced meeting minutes from the mid 1980’s in which former Mayor Joe T. Smitherman said remarked on the disproportionate relationship and said the city was basically funding the city/county library.

“Yes, the city provides more for the library than the county does,” Jones said. “(But) there were agreements

made back in those days between the city and county that the city would support more agencies more than the county did (and vice versa).”

“I’m proud we do have those arrangements,” commissioner Kim Ballard said also noting the money the county’s put into the jail.

“I think we do our share and then some.”

Ballard added that he hated to see the situation get into a city vs. county sort of thing, but some of the statements left him enraged.

Jones listed several agencies the county takes the lead in funding and focused on the arena of economic development.

“Somewhere along the way someone failed to point out that the county has pretty much taken the lead in providing the funding for the EDA and I do know that the strong feeling of this County Commission is the economic development is the lifeblood of the community,” Jones said. “I think the commission is doing more than it’s fair share at this point.”

Jones also spoke about the work the county did, along with State Senator Hank Sanders and others, to help attract Hyundai suppliers to town.

“The county commission has taken it, along with other people, to see that we get an industrial access park at Craig Air Force Base,” Jones said. “This is something we had to have if we were to attract Hyundai suppliers, now we have two at Craig. The county is responsible for a little over $260,000

to provide the industrial access road.”

Jones also discussed the services provided by the Dallas County Emergency Management Association, an agency that operates on funding from the state, county and some local city governments, but not Selma.

Jones noted several programs the EMA has started that serve Selma as well as Dallas County.

“The city has certainly been included at all of this at no cost,” Jones said. “I could go on and on. I did not want the people in this community to think that this County Commission is not sharing a proportionate share of the cost. Admittedly the library is funded more through the city, but the city has made the decision to fund that much.”

Commissioner Roy Moore echoed Jones and Ballard.

He added that the library budget wasn’t enough to fix the city’s budget problems.

“If that little dab of money is all that’s holding the city back, I’m sure something can be worked out,” he said.

Commissioner Connell Towns also agreed, “I feel this commission has done a great job to represent the county,” he said.

Jones also pointed out that the commission has operated under a balanced budget for several years and has turned their budget in on time.

“I want to bring this up because I think it’s vitally important that the public understand just exactly where their money goes. First and foremost I want to say that this county commission has operated with a balanced budget for quite a number of years,” Jones said. “Also this county commission has a budget in the time which is designated by law, after the last meeting in September

not later than the first meeting in October. I say that because all of the agencies, which we fund, are notified prior that we’ll be at level funding or words to that effect. They’ve been notified about exactly what their budget allocations are.”

Jones, who joked with the handful in attendance throughout, also discussed the breakdown on city and county ad valorem taxes.

Jones went over the county’s budget, including the money drawn in from county ad valorem taxes as well as sales tax.

“I think it’s important to note that the county gets 8.5 mills from ad valorem taxes, roads and bridges gets 4 mills, that’s a total of 12.5 mills if you’re a county resident and that includes a county resident that lives in the city,” Jones said. “That same county resident that lives in the city also pays 27 mills to the city, 11.8 of that goes to schools, so the city actually gets 16.2 mills.”

A mill is a tenth of a cent, and is used to determine the percentage paid by property owners.

Jones also broke down the sales tax percentages.

“The city receives a 4-cent sales tax, the county gets 1-cent and a quarter of that goes to county schools,” Jones said. “The city gets a good bit of money on sales tax and a fair amount of that comes from county residents who purchase things in the city and we’re certainly glad that they do. That looks like a lot of our county residents are trying to subsidize the city budget in their own way.”

Finally Jones said, if the city wants to start matching funds on each project, he might be willing to oblige.

“If we want to match funds, this might be a good start,” he said. ‘I can think of a lot of funds they can match.”