September 13, 2017 10:56:38 AM
Supervisors finalized Oktibbeha County's upcoming $56.46 million budget Tuesday that carries with it an almost 2-mill tax increase for property owners.
Combined with the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District's taxing rate of 64.98 mills, the upcoming 58.59-mill levy for county operations means property owners in outlying Oktibbeha County -- those who do not live within the municipalities of Starkville, Sturgis or Maben -- will pay an overall rate of 123.57 in ad valorem taxes, up from the current fiscal year's rate of 121.74 mills.
Residents who own property within those towns will be subject to a 120.91-mill levy, which does not include either a 2.66-mill levy for county fire services or the local municipality's own taxes.
While the county's general operations budget requires an additional 2.88 mills, the overall burden on taxpayers is offset by a 1.05-mill decrease for SOCSD and the additional value -- approximately $15,586 for a general county mill -- each increment of taxation brings into the county compared to last year.
The overall 1.83-mill tax increase for outlying county residents means those property owners will pay an additional $18.30 in annual property taxes per $100,000 of the assessed value of their home. That estimate does not include tax breaks on property, like homestead exemption.
Since budget preparations began this summer, supervisors have repeatedly said the increasing value of a mill is a sign Oktibbeha County is growing stronger financially. District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller again noted that growth Monday -- specifically that the growth came outside of a reassessment year.
"When I work my budget and I know we're going to have a tax increase, I try to save and move everywhere I can to keep it to the least amount of increase for the taxpayers," said County Administrator Emily Garrard.
Of the $56.46 million budget, almost $21 million is reserved for bond-funded capital improvements.
Those bonds -- a $7 million pledge toward a Golden Triangle Development LINK-backed industrial park and a $14.5 million infrastructure improvement package -- will be serviced by 5.15 combined mills.
Specifically, Oktibbeha County will fund about $6.48 million in debt service in the coming fiscal year, which includes the two new bonds, OCH Regional Medical Center bonds and a 2001 road bond, among other funds.
Other new additions to the budget include a 0.48-mill levy to fund a portion of East Mississippi Community College's Communiversity project in Lowndes County and a 0.24-mill increase to volunteer fire services -- the maximum increase allowed in one fiscal year by statute -- that brings its overall rate to 2.66 mills.
The county will provide approximately $892,635 to various groups through outside contributions, which is an increase of about $22,000 from the current fiscal year.
Supervisors split $102,000 between the Mississippi State University Horse Park ($41,000), Oktibbeha County Humane Society ($20,000), Red Cross ($7,000), OSERVES ($6,500), Brickfire Project ($5,000) and other groups and contribution streams, while public health initiatives administered through the Mississippi State Department of Health ($104,500) and Golden Triangle Planning and Development District's Aging Program ($50,000) will receive almost $150,000.
Other funds earmarked for more than $100,000 in allocations include EMCC -- $230,535 for its capital improvements line item -- and the Starkville-Oktibbeha County Public Library System ($185,000).
Miller, who serves as the MSU Horse Park's executive director, recused from the vote approving the budget.
"All of these agencies are very deserving, and we're trying to do our part for Oktibbeha County," said District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery.
Industrial park bids
In other business, supervisors awarded the sale of the $7 million industrial park bond to Regions Bank.
Regions Bank's 3.51 percent interest rate bid beat out Texas Capital Bank's offer of 4.13 percent interest.
Butler Snow bond attorney Sam Keyes said the county must still go through a validation process with the issuance, but the bond sale is expected to close by the middle of October.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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