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April 3, 2014 11:02:58 AM
One week from today, Columbus residents will have their say on a proposed millage increase that would fund a bond issue for capital improvements.
Mayor Robert Smith and city councilmen have scheduled a hearing for April 10 at the Columbus Municipal Complex. The meeting begins at 5 p.m.
During a special meeting Monday, councilmen approved a motion to proceed with setting a public forum so they could gather feedback on their intent to issue $5 million in bonds to pave, mill and stripe streets, install curbs and gutters and repair and install sidewalks. An up-to-2-mill tax increase would be implemented to pay back the debt.
The city's current millage rate is 40.13 with the value of a mill at $173,000. Property tax in dollar terms is calculated by multiplying the assessed property value and the mill rate and dividing by 1,000. As a property may be subject to tax by a number of different authorities, millage rates are set by each taxing authority so as to meet the revenue projections in their budgets.
Lowndes County tax assessor Greg Andrews said he does not expect the value of a city mill to decrease in the next year.
"Right now the numbers are not showing a downward trend," Andrews said. "We've got a lot of commercial stuff being built and adding to the tax base. You've got some that are coming off and ... that could take into effect some, but I don't see it dipping any this year."
During Monday's meeting, city engineering consultant Kevin Stafford presented councilmen with two lists of capital projects divided into each ward that were not completed during the last project cycle in 2012. That year marked the completion of a three-year, $3.5 million cycle of capital improvements that came from an $8.9 million general obligation bond issued in 2010. Combined, those lists add up to $1,688,518 in work that was considered but not completed during that cycle.
One list consists of projects each councilmen wanted to see completed. The other is a list of engineer-recommended projects based on a number of factors, including time elapsed since a road had last been paved, the amount of traffic a road receives and the current condition of the road.
The two lists have not been touched in two years and do not include any roads councilmen have told Stafford they'd consider since 2012, Stafford said.
"This is, at best, a conversation starter. You helped us prioritize start to finish what you wanted done and we worked until the money ran out," Stafford told councilmen Monday. "Some (list items) may reflect a drainage repair. Some repairs may be sidewalk and some are mill and overlay. There's a different reasoning and cost behind each one. By no means is this indicative of what we would recommend moving forward with at this time. It's just something to jog your memory."
In 2000, city engineering firm Neel-Schaffer evaluated each city street and rated them based on their condition, something Stafford said he and his colleagues continue to update yearly.
"Some streets that got paved 10 years ago may need it again because they're high volume streets. Some streets last paved 10 years ago don't need it at all today because they don't catch a lot of volume. It's a continual evaluation process," he said. "Some streets deteriorate faster. Sometimes it's a bad base. Sometimes a lot of potholes due to bad drainage."
Another factor councilmen have to consider is the cost work now compared to years ago. In 2007 before oil price increases, asphalt cost $55 a ton, Stafford said.
"Today, we're going to be around $100 (a ton)," Stafford said. "It's been there now since about 2010. I don't see that situation getting any better with gas prices where they are."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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