On Monday Jackson County’s Board of Supervisors approved a multi-million dollar corporate welfare package for Chevron, the county’s third largest company. The decision was met with much criticism from the public as it was approved just weeks before a new board is sworn in. Also troubling was the complete lack of discussion on the item. Supervisor Melton Harris admitted to speaking to other supervisors about the measure, but not in such a way to flout open meetings laws.
At the time, Supervisor Barry Cumbest told the Sun Herald’s Karen Nelson “We’re just doing it today, no particular reason. It can be done this year or next year, either one. We decided to go ahead and do it.” Knowing all the facts, it does seem that the board had a “particular reason.”
Now we learn a likely particular reason: Moody’s downgraded the county’s debt on Nov. 30 and is likely to do so again.
The JCBOS already had knowledge of this information and chose not to share it with the public. They further subverted the wishes of the taxpayers and voters of this county by rushing through a vote on a tax break for Chevron. Moody’s points out that if the county could increase reserves, the rating could go up. Jackson County’s first contribution of $10 million to Chevron shareholders would go a long way toward shoring up the rainy day fund.
Moody’s cites the pension problems at Singing River Health System as well as a “weak financial disclosure practices” by Jackson County. The rating organization will be reviewing the county’s books as well as all component units including:
- Singing River Health System
- Jackson County Port Authority
- West Jackson County Utility District
- Jackson-George Regional Library
Though not a likely scenario, Moody’s press release threatens that if enough information is not provided by the county, the hospital, the port etc., the rating could be revoked entirely.
Chevron had profits of $19.2 billion in the previous fiscal year.
Chevron Gets Huge Exemption on Investment, Sun Herald, Karen Nelson