The Marion County Board of Supervisors is pursuing borrowing $5 million to fix roads and bridges and paying the money back with newly allocated internet sales tax revenue.
That would allow it to address an infrastructure crisis without raising taxes.
The legislature in a recent special session approved giving cities and counties a 15 percent cut each of internet sales tax collections, but the money is being phased it over four years. Marion County expects to get about $150,000 in the first year before eventually reaching about $583,000 per year.
District 2 Supervisor Terry Broome said the bond is imperative because the state money won’t fully take effect for four years.
“We need to fix our roads and bridges now,” he said. “We’re facing the possibility of more closures. We’re looking at another 10 to 12 bridges we may have to close. We were waiting until the legislature completed its special session to see what they did. We can fix our bridges on what they are giving us.”
During a meeting Sept. 6, supervisors discussed options with Warren Greenlee, a bond attorney with the Young Law Group in Jackson, and asked him to draft a resolution declaring the intention of the board to issue the general obligation bonds or to enter into a loan with the Mississippi Development Bank up to $5 million.
Greenlee said they hope to persuade the legislature to tweak the law when it comes to its regular session in January to make it clear that the funding won’t be taken away.
“It will be tough for them to agree that they can’t take away anything,” Greenlee said. “They could make another law to take it away, but that’s going to be tough to do at this point now that they have the phase-in over four years. The funds aren’t necessarily withheld and sent to the treasurer until next summer.
“The county gets its money semiannually, which is January and July of each year. It will probably be January of 2020 before you get any money. It will be (an eighth) of the share. That next January, you’d get half of that stepped up. That’s just the 15 percent use tax. They also have the 5 percent that is going into the local bridges now.”
Greenlee said the terms of the loan would be determined by the duration the county wanted to pay it back in.
“We’ll run some schedules and show you what the payments would look like,” he said. “We traditionally do a lot of school bond issues. We’ve done bonds for Lincoln, Jackson and Pontotoc counties ranging from small equipment loans to 20-year bonds. We will weigh all options and find the most efficient way to get it done. We handled the Columbia School District’s recent $10 million bond issue.”
Under the proposal, the county would have up to two years to issue the bonds, though Marion County officials said they hoped to accelerate the process so they could receive the money and begin putting jobs out to bid.
Those protesting the issuance of bonds would have until 9:30 a.m. Oct. 4 to file a petition against it.
Greenlee told the board he would return at a later date with details.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Marion County Board of Supervisors is set for Sept. 17 at the board offices on Courthouse Square.
Pictured Above: Warren Greenlee, a bond attorney from Jackson, talks with the Marion County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 6. The county wants to borrow $5 million to fix bridges and roads now and use revenue from internet sales taxes to repay it over time. The county has about 20 bridges in need of repair, and Supervisor Terry Broome said the work needs to be done now. | Photo by Mark Rogers