County sets budget, prepares to move to new courthouse

Sep. 16—The Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors met briefly on Thursday ahead of their regular work session to finalize the budget for the upcoming year and set the tax rate residents will pay.

The county plans to spend about $93.8 million in the 2024 fiscal year, with 30% going toward public works, such as the road department, 20% to public safety, such as the sheriff's department, and 26% going to fund general government.

County taxes will be unchanged at 60.7 mills, which has stayed the same since the 2022 fiscal year. Residents will see a slight bump in their tax bills, however, as the Lauderdale County School District increased its millage for debt service from 2.86 mills to 3 mills, which is the highest it can go.

The total combined millage for the county and school is set at 118.7 mills.

Moving Day

In other business, work on Lauderdale County's new $50 million government complex is nearing completion with furniture already arriving and being assembled inside the new courthouse building.

County Administrator Chris Lafferty said Thursday the county was eyeing the first week of October to begin moving into the new space and needed to move forward with hiring a moving company to help relocate the county offices.

Of the four companies who bid on the county's request for moving services, Lafferty said Mighty Strong Movers, out of Madison, came in the lowest at a cost of $235,400.

"They're as qualified as anybody else, so the suggestion is to go with them," he said.

While Mighty Strong Movers works to relocate the necessary files and equipment needed for each county department to do its job, Lafferty said he will be working to coordinate the move with the various elected and appointed officials that head up each department.

The current plan, he said, is to move the departments in the Raymond P. Davis Annex first and hopefully iron out any wrinkles in the process before moving on to the court clerks and others in the old courthouse.

Lafferty said the move will also have to take individual departments' operational needs into account as well. For example, he said, the tax collector's office is connected to state systems via a software that cannot be run in two places at once. That means the office will need to move all at once and cannot migrate to its new space over time.

To further complicate things, he said, the software will require working with state information technology staff to bring back online, which makes a weekend move much less likely.

The moving company said it would need five to six weeks to complete its portion of the ordeal, which would put the county occupying its new space shortly after the general election in November. Election commissioners have already requested, and been granted, delaying their relocation until after the election to avoid unnecessary confusion.

On his end, Lafferty said he was working to get information on upcoming court dates and other obligations, any special considerations such as the tax collector's software, and feedback from the county departments and contractors in charge of the new courthouse's construction to develop a plan of who will move, when and how.

Supervisor Jonathan Wells said the board appreciates the work Lafferty and other county officials are putting into organizing the transition.

"Your hard work does not go unnoticed," he said.

Contact Thomas Howard at thoward@themeridianstar.com