The New Year has brought change to the way Tate County Supervisors serve residents of the area from now on.
Supervisors approved a measure, by a 4-1 vote, to transition to the unit system of government at a meeting in mid-December. The unit system combines county operations into one joint entity.
Tate County has used the “beat” system for approximately the last 30 years.
In a traditional beat system, each supervisor is in charge of budgeting, staffing and directing road maintenance within his or her own district on a day-to-day basis.
Under the unit system, which has been adopted in 45 of Mississippi's 82 counties, the county administrator and a county road manager handle daily operations with administration employees reporting to the county administrator and road and bridge employees reporting to the road manager, freeing supervisors to focus on broader issues such as health, education, jobs and quality of life.
Supervisors agreed that creating more jobs and attracting new industries are top priorities.
“After much thought and consideration, this decision was made for the good of the county’s future,” said District 5 Supervisor Daryl Ricks. “This decision establishes a department that will remain constant even after my tenure has expired as a county supervisor.”
Surrounding counties such as DeSoto, Lafayette, Marshall, Panola and Tunica already have the unit system in place.
“Initially, I was on the fence about converting to the unit system but if more than half the state is using it, it has to work,” said District 1 Supervisor Cliff O’Conner. “We feel like we can run a more efficient county with a unified system of budgeting, payroll, manpower and logistics.”
According to a state government official, the beat system is basically five county governments within one county. However, in the unit system, road and bridge funds are pooled and distributed without regard to district boundaries.
“We believe this will allow us to serve the county better and help us purchase newer equipment for use countywide,” said District 4 Supervisor Billy Saunders.
Tate County Administrator Cole Massie said the merger makes sense from a business perspective.
“The consolidation of county road and bridge funds will increase the buying power of those departments, allowing for the opportunity to purchase certain pieces of equipment necessary to fix the roads. Previously, one department alone may not have been able to purchase a specific piece of equipment,” Massie explained.
“The road and bridge equipment will be accounted for under the unit system with one road department and one bridge department as opposed to five separate road departments and five separate bridge departments.”
Massie said the county would begin advertising for the road manager’s position in the coming weeks. From an accounting standpoint, many government experts say the unit system is best.
They said counties under the unit system typically keep better records and have a much greater success rate in audits than those under the beat system thanks to the work of the county administrator.
“We, as a Board, are working to bring better customer service to the citizens of Tate County by being good stewards of the county’s resources and assets and using sound business principles,” said District 2 Supervisor Eddie Branan.
Tony Sandridge, president of the Board of Supervisors and District 3 representative, was the only one who opposed changing to the unit system.
“I feel like it takes the personal touch out of serving the people in your district, but making changes is something our county is going to have to get used to,” he explained. “I am not going to do anything to buck the system because I want it to work. We ask our citizens to be patient in how we respond to their needs while making this change. We are still promoting our ultimate goal which is ‘One Tate County’.”