LUCEDALE, Miss. (WKRG) — Members of the George County Board of Supervisors voted to raise their salaries during a special called meeting Thursday. It’s the first increase in more than 18 years, according to the state’s association of supervisors.
The board’s vote comes after state legislators approved pay increases for all county supervisors across the state based on the county’s valuation. With an assessed value of $186 million, George County’s salary cap is now $45,000. Previously, it was at $40,400. The new cap can’t increase during the current board’s term unless the county becomes valued at $300 million.
District 4 supervisor Larry Havard will be the longest-serving supervisor in the state’s history by the end of this term next year with 40 years in office. He said the responsibilities have increased over the years.
“It used to be a ‘part-time job,’ it’s a full-time job now if you do your job. It takes a lot of time and effort,” said Harvard. “Our growth has accelerated in the last five years.”
Board President Frankie Massey was the only supervisor to vote against the increase.
“I took the job for whatever it was and I just don’t want to alter the pay mid-term. Honestly, the increase is probably deserved, I don’t think there’s an issue there. I also don’t think it’s really fair for us to have to vote on our pay increases,” Massey told WKRG.
Miss. State’s Center for Government and Community Development defines the supervisors’ duties as overseeing the county’s roads, ferries, bridges, law enforcement, collections, fines, levying taxes and “guiding and establishing policy for the complex multi-million dollar budgets.”
Havard said he spends the bulk of his time overseeing maintenance employees for his district’s infrastructure and solving issues presented by them, project engineers and neighbors as the county grows. One of the tasks Harvard oversees is ensuring proper drainage in a new subdivision.
“We have a problem in that area, putting that many houses in there. I see the possibility people could wake up one morning and can’t get from their house to their car [be]cause they got water in their yard,” said Harvard. “It’s left up to me, I’m trying to protect the county and whoever comes behind me in the years to come.”
The new law allows for the salary cap to be increased by up to $2,000 after the next board is elected and takes office in 2024. Another increase can be implemented by the board taking office in 2028. Thus, at the county’s current valuation, supervisors could vote to raise their salaries to $49,000 at that time.
If the county’s valuation rises to $300 million, the cap in 2028 would be $54,000 through at least 2031.
County supervisors’ salaries are tied by state code to justice court judges and the prosecuting attorney. Those three George County employees also received a raise to $45,000.
The salary increase comes as the county is set to pay over half their general fund to Joel Dixon’s estate after his 2014 death in the county jail. $750,000 was delivered earlier this month. The remaining $1.75 million is due by Aug. 1.
“Cash balance will get extremely low. We certainly don’t need a hurricane or tornado to come through where we’ll need cash upfront,” said Massey.
Lawmakers approved a slew of pay raises the last session from the governor and other statewide elected officials to all teachers and other school employees in the state. A bill introduced in the senate raising salaries for the legislator died earlier this year.