A report by a legislative watchdog says the Tunica County Board of Supervisors needs reforms to its procedures to ensure that it doesn’t engage in deficit spending and complies with state law on various issues.
The Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER Committee) issued the report in light of budgetary concerns that included:
- A $4.3 million deficit from October 1, 2012 to August 31, 2019.
- The county’s general fund had a negative balance of $4.9 million and the report says the county was using its road fund to pay expenses in contravention of state law.
- In April 2018, the board transferred $5 million to the general fund from its road funds, a practice also contrary to state law. An opinion from the attorney general informed the board that the transfer wasn’t permissible, but the board didn’t authorize repayment of the $5 million to the road fund until PEER began its investigation.
- The county assessed a nine-mill property tax for the road fund in 2015 and overtaxed county residents by $5.5 million from 2015 to 2017 because it was inaccurate in its projection of future road maintenance and construction expenditures.
- Minutes of the board’s meetings didn’t always specify why the body went into executive session as required by law.
- In fiscal 2014, the county was forced by a court order to refund $190,000 to one taxpayer after being in non-compliance with state law on the issuance of tax levies.
Tunica County revenues declined because of declining gaming fee expenses, falling 26 percent between 2013 and 2018. The county received 62 percent of its revenues during the same span from gaming fees.
The county has six casinos, down from a high of nine in 2014.
The report says there are also problems with the way the county spends taxpayer funds.
The board has an arrangement with the North Delta Regional Housing Authority on a program to build and rehabilitate homes in the county for the elderly and handicapped, but had no signed contract either between the NDRHA and the county.
The county later moved all administrative and operational responsibilities for the program to the non-profit Tunica County Housing Inc. in 2014.
The board voted to appropriate $1.6 million from county taxpayers to the organization, with no supporting documentation on how the funds were expended or whether any work. The Tunica County Housing Inc., which was involved in the program, spent 41 percent of its budget ($681,000) provided by taxpayers on administrative costs.
The Better Business Bureau and the Charities Review Council both agree that administrative costs shouldn’t exceed 35 percent for a grant-issuing organization.
The county’s attorney, John Keith Perry Jr., blasted the report in his response letter that PEER includes from examined agency or subdivision.
He said that county officials only had two “small windows of four hours” to review and respond to the PEER report, less than what had been given to other agencies in the past. He also accused PEER of being focused on “a few hot-button issues of a political nature.”
He also said the county reserves the right to do a more thorough response when allowed to study the full and final report.