By Bob Ratliff
MSU Extension Center for Government and Community Development
BILOXI – The state’s county supervisors expressed concern about funding for essential services in numerous discussions at the 2013 Mississippi Association of Supervisors Conference.
Most of Mississippi’s 410 county supervisors attended the June 17–20 meeting at the Mississippi Coast Convention Center in Biloxi. Educational session topics during the conference included transportation funding, rural economic development and the expected impact on counties of new federal health care laws.
The sessions were coordinated by the Mississippi State University Extension Service’s Center for Government and Community Development.
“We’re mandated by the Mississippi Legislature to provide training for the state’s supervisors to ensure they are equipped and prepared for the jobs they are elected to do,” said Sumner Davis, head of the center. “We’re pleased to offer these educational sessions to help our state’s leaders better serve their local communities.”
Supervisors were eager to get the latest information from legislators because county governments are facing increased costs for providing essential services, said Mississippi Association of Supervisors President Paul Mosley of Clarke County.
“One of the biggest challenges we’re facing statewide is a shortage of funds to maintain and improve our county roads and bridges,” Mosley said. “The major source of revenue for maintaining our transportation infrastructure is the state’s gasoline tax, and there is a critical need for revising the formula used to fund county roads and bridges from that tax.”
Supervisors heard updates by state legislators, including House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Willie Simmons, House Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Johnson, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Billy Hudson and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Preston Sullivan.
Sullivan, D-Okolona, and Hudson, R-Hattiesburg, both emphasized bipartisan cooperation in support of Mississippi’s No. 1 industry, agriculture. They also agreed on the need for more legislators with local government experience.
“Supervisors are meeting citizens at their point of need,” Hudson said, adding that it is important for legislators to understand the operations of local government in order to provide adequate resources to counties and municipalities.
Hudson is one of four former supervisors currently serving in the Senate. A similar number are members of the House.
Each year, the educational sessions at the conference are selected to meet specific needs, said Derrick Surrette, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors. The association’s Committee on Supervisor Education approves the selected topics.
“It was a great meeting from the standpoint of educational opportunities for our members,” he said. “They received updates on the new Federal Health Care Law and the potential expense to the state of Medicare expansion, as well as other current issues that impact local government.”