BY BRIAN JONES
At their July 3 meeting, the Clay County Board of Supervisors discussed delinquent property taxes, heard from a citizen about East Mississippi Community College’s request for an additional mill and once again heard from District 2 residents about a dispute over road access near Beacon Road.
Tax Assessor Paige Lamkin told the board that there are a number of businesses who are delinquent on their taxes, in some cases owing several years’ worth. She submitted a list of businesses who have not paid.
“It’s a total of about $10,500 that is unpaid,” she said. “That does not include several businesses that didn’t pay last year, and there is one business that has not paid in four or five years. We have sent the initial bill, a courtesy letter and certified letters. Some of them refused to pick the letters up. They know that they owe this.
“This needs to be collected, and the next phase of what we can do is to go through the sheriff’s department and shut them down and sell their property,” Lamkin said. “That’s not what I want to do by any means, but we have to take some kind of step to make them pay. It’s not fair to those who do pay. We’d like to run a list in the newspaper of the businesses that have not paid.”
“The statute says we can shut them down,” Chancery Clerk Amy Berry said. “We are just doing this as a courtesy.”
“I feel like they’ve had fair warning,” Lamkin said.
The board unanimously approved putting the delinquent list in the paper.
Clay County citizen David Duke urged the board not to give EMCC any additional money.
EMCC has asked each of its participating counties to give it an additional mill of tax revenue to fund the construction of a student union at the Mayhew campus, as well as new dormitories. The supervisors have not yet agreed to the extra tax, but have said they will do so if the other counties do.
Duke, 70, argued that EMCC should be able to find the money internally.
“I’m here to speak out against taking on long-term debt and raising taxes,” Duke said. “In no way am I anti-education, but this is a long-term commitment that is going out of the county. I can’t see doing this if it results in a tax increase.”
“You have to look at the return,” said District 5 Supervisor Floyd McKee. “People are going over there and getting an education on that tuition-free guarantee.”
“Clay County sends $380,000 every year over there, and part of that is the cost-fee tuition,” Duke said. “I support that. That’s a great thing. But now they’re wanting more and more. There are a lot of ways to fund these projects besides raising taxes. (EMCC President Rick Young) saved enough money to build a new football stadium. That’s a great thing, but he saved the money for that. When you look at the figures, there is a lot of money…he’s got a $54 million budget, he could cut 1 percent off of several different things and fund this project by himself. You’re cutting, he should cut, too. Clay County is cut to the bone.
“Dr. Young is a great asset, but he’s a politician,” Duke said. “He says one thing here, then says something a little different in Columbus. I don’t blame him, that’s what he’s got to do. But I think you need to stand up just a little bit. From what he told Clay County and what he told Lowndes County, he’s got some slack in his budget. Clay County don’t have any slack. How you going to tell people on Deans Road they can’t have their road fixed and then turn around and send this money to EMCC?”
The board took no action.
John Bennett and several citizens from the Beacon Road area again came before the board to ask the county to intervene in a dispute over a road on private property. Bennett and his allies claim they have a de facto prescriptive easement to cross another landowner’s property, but are being denied access.
County Attorney Bob Marshall, as he did last time, advised them to go through the court system because the county does not have the authority to intervene.
“The board does not have the authority to substitute itself for the chancery court,” Marshall said. “The board only has authority on county roads. There are ways to establish an easement, but that is for the chancery court system.”
The board took no action.0