September 16, 2013 9:54:04 AM
Previous discussion about how to fund a $96,000 Starkville Parks Commission budget increase seems moot as aldermen are expected to approve funding which does not utilize 2-percent food and beverage taxes.
Two city aldermen confirmed Sunday that the board's original funding plan -- increase SPC's operating budget by $8,000 per month -- will be implemented in the city's budget Tuesday. Aldermen previously suggested splitting the increase between the general fund ($72,000) and 2-percent food and beverage collections ($24,000), but officials say "political will" amongst board members is declining.
In an August budget meeting, aldermen voted 6-1 to increase Parks' budget "until further ordered by the board." Only Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker voted against the measure. At the time, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, who proposed the increase, suggested zeroing two budgeted salaries for vacant positions -- the chief administrative officer's and an assistant city planner's -- to pay for the SPC increase. The two positions would bring the city about $100,000, he said in August, and unneeded benefits would push that figure higher.
The board scaled back an almost 3-mill property tax increase by about a point in its first September meeting. The new city budget was prepared using a 21.98-mill ad valorem rate. Currently, Starkville operates on a 20-mill levy.
Property taxes are calculated with mills. One mill is worth one-thousandth of a dollar. For example, if the millage rate is 20 mills, a property owner pays $20 for every $1,000 of assessed value on his or her property. The assessed value of a property is the appraised value multiplied by the assessment ratio (10% for residential properties). The owner of a property appraised for $100,000 in this example would owe $200 in taxes.
Municipalities, counties and school districts each establish their own millage rates to meet budgetary needs.
To pull off the millage decrease while still tending to increasing expenditures, Starkville Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard proposed siphoning funding from vacant positions -- the same unfilled jobs proposed by Perkins --and delaying hires. The board told department heads they would need to be prepared for more financial cuts.
Officials confirmed Sunday that the scaled-back tax rate should find board support Tuesday. The city's new budget and tax rate is also expected to cover long-overdue pay raises for its employees.
SPC currently receives 40 percent of the city's 2-percent collections, and those funds are limited to specific expenditures. Payments on electric bills, a subject of scrutiny by the previous administration, are not allowed with those monies.
SPC minutes also show the autonomous board received a $100,000 donation from NBA forward Travis Outlaw in June for naming rights at the Starkville Sportsplex. It is not known if aldermen factored that donation in when it previously approved SPC's funding increase.
Aldermen will hold a public hearing on the new tax rate and the city's budget at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the City Hall Courtroom.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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