September 3, 2014 10:22:56 AM
Starkville is expected to operate with the same ad valorem tax rate in the upcoming fiscal year, officials forecasted Tuesday, after staff said an expected early January economic development bond issuance will mean the city won't need additional funds for payments until Fiscal Year 2015-2016.
The board of aldermen unanimously approved advertising for a 21.68-mill ad valorem rate -- Starkville's current millage level -- ahead of Sept. 16's public hearing on taxes and the upcoming FY 2014-2015 budget.
A copy of the upcoming budget proposal shows Starkville expects to receive $18.42 million in revenues for the approaching fiscal year, of which about $6.05 million represents tax receipts.
Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins, who repeatedly said he is not in favor of a tax increase, grilled Chief Administrative Officer Taylor Adams on the city's financial health, repeatedly questioning whether Starkville will have available funds to pay for numerous upcoming projects as they approach in the coming fiscal years without dipping into the city reserves.
Besides a 2-mill levy to develop the Golden Triangle Development LINK-backed Innovation District, a new industrial park near the Highways 25 and 182 bypass, the city is also approaching a deal to purchase Cadence Bank's Main Street branch for $2.55 million and convert it for Starkville Police Department usage.
Adams said the city does not currently have liquidity issue and is expected to have the cash for debt service. Funding availability, the finance director said, is contingent on the board's wishes, seeing as how the seven-person group directly controls Starkville's financial director.
Adams prepared the upcoming budget, he said, based upon aldermen's wishes to keep tax rates flat. Applying the 2-mill rate increase allows property owners, especially those who rent homes and apartments, to prepare their own rates accordingly, he said.
Perkins suggested the LINK delay issuing the industrial park bonds until October 2015, thereby giving Starkville more time to arrange its own finances. Adams said he could take the vice mayor's message to the economic development group, but aldermen stopped short of assigning him the task.
Aldermen also rubberstamped Starkville School District's 66.61-mill, $55.7 million operating budget Tuesday, which includes a 3-mill increase approved via a 2013 reverse bond referendum for $7 million in improvement projects ahead of 2015's consolidation with Oktibbeha County School District.
A slight millage increase was needed -- about $150,000 in new local revenues -- after about $800,000 was cut from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway told aldermen Tuesday.
Many school districts across Mississippi are dealing with similar drops in MAEP funding because of legislation that changes the average daily attendance formula, he said. SSD anticipated a property reassessment would offset the cut, but $10 million in new property only resulted in about $200,000 in new tax revenue.
SSD projects its millage rate will drop to 64 in FY 2015-2016. Two more mills are expected to roll off the books in the following four fiscal years.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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