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Analysis: Annual report dives deep into Mississippi finances

EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS

The new Mississippi Comprehensive Annual Financial Report has a chart that shows who is in charge of state government.

The top of the chart on page 9? Not the governor, or legislators, or judges.

It is the citizens of Mississippi.

That means that the 170-page document is a report of how elected officials, state agency directors and government employees are spending and managing your money if you live in the state.

The report was published April 21 by the Department of Finance and Administration and is on the state auditor’s website . It gives a big-picture look at the state’s budget and its other financial obligations, such as bond debt and government pensions, through fiscal 2016, which ended last June 30.

The budget picture is familiar to anyone who has followed the news the past couple of years. Mississippi tax collections have fallen short of expectations, and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has had to make multiple rounds of budget cuts since the middle of FY16.

The report notes, on page 22, that money collected to support the general fund — the biggest state-funded part of the budget — fell $145.7 million short of predictions for the year. While the original expectation was for revenue growth, the state ended up collecting $22.2 million less during FY16 than the year before.

Sales tax collections grew by $27.8 million, or 1.4 percent, and individual income tax collections grew by $26 million, or 1.5 percent, in FY16 compared to the previous year. But, collections from corporate income tax and franchise tax decreased by $117.8 million, or 16.5 percent.

Information about state debt is on page 24. The bottom line is good news: Mississippi government has borrowed much less money than allowed by the state constitution. Also on page 24: a glance at economic factors that affect the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

“Although Mississippi’s economy is experiencing growth, it is not translating into more revenue,” the report says.

Through the first nine months of the current budget year, tax collections were $142.2 million, or 3.9 percent, short of the same period last year.

Scroll to page 98 for a one-page look at money that the state collected and spent during FY16. The chart compares original and final budget figures.

The last several pages are full of statistics about how many people live in Mississippi, how much they earn and what they do for a living.

A chart on page 161 shows Mississippi’s population grew steadily from 2.9 million in 2006 to 2.994 million in 2014, then dipped to 2.993 million in 2015. Though the report doesn’t note it, Mississippi was one of only a few states to lose population.

Per-capita personal income in Mississippi grew from $27,965 in 2006 to $35,444 in 2015. That is still among the lowest in the nation.

Government was the top employer in Mississippi in both 2006 and 2015, accounting for about one-fifth of the workforce. The next-highest category of employment for both of those years was in manufacturing, with 14.6 percent of workers in 2006 and 11.9 percent in 2015.

Pages 162 and 163 show a decade’s worth of statistics about education enrollment.

K-12 public schools had 494,135 pupils in 2006-07, and that fell to 486,471 in 2015-16.

Community college enrollment was 81,891 in 2006-07. It hit a peak of 99,829 in 2009-10, reflecting reaction to the Great Recession. Then, it dropped to 70,634 in 2015-16.

University enrollment increased from 69,941 in 2006-07 to 81,024 in 2015-16.

The statistics about population, income and education are valuable to lawmakers and public policy planners.

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