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Our View: Columbus city school taxes




Brace yourself. 


This year -- as the Columbus school district struggles with decreased allocations from the state, lower local tax collections and the bill for a new $19.1 million school -- taxes will go up, again. 


The increase affects hundreds of taxpayers in Columbus and Lowndes County. 


In a meeting Tuesday night, five city-appointed community members and Interim Superintendent Martha Liddell led a public hearing on the matter. 


The news was grim: It will take a couple million additional tax dollars to offset last year''s $900,000 shortfall, the loss of state-issued stimulus dollars and to start paying back $22 million in bonds issued to build the new middle school. 


We''re not accountants. We haven''t scrutinized every line item of Columbus Municipal School District''s budget. But we hope the school board members have. 


Already, their proposed budget includes spending $51.88 million, but they''re only expected to take in $43.51 million ($14.33 million of which would come from local taxes). Even the most math-challenged among us can see that''s a serious deficit before you''ve even begun. 


The district won''t get the entirety of the 9-mill tax increase it needs to keep its head above water. The community wouldn''t stand for a tax hike of that magnitude.  


But taxes are going up. The question is, how much? Chances are we won''t have an answer until at least Aug. 15, when the school district will look to the Columbus City Council for final approval of the district budget. 


The news was shared with about two dozen concerned citizens at Brandon Central Services. By contrast, across town at the Columbus Municipal Complex, about 150 people showed up at a city council meeting in support of now-fired Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John. 


The local school districts'' budgets have much further-reaching consequences. As the city of Columbus loses population -- 2,300 people in the past 10 years -- its taxable property goes down, and the rest of us are forced to pick up the slack, in the form of higher taxes. 


Over the past years, the city schools showed a willingness to spend money to meet their goals. The school board hired an innovative superintendent -- Del Phillips -- and under his leadership, committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the magnet school concept, with high-ticket programs like International Baccalaureate and a fine arts curriculum. 


It''s been a whirlwind. 


The changes will take time to set in, and we''re optimistic they will yield positive results. But right now, it''s time to tighten the belt. Higher taxes is only part of the solution the district''s money woes. Cutting the fat is another.



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Reader Comments

Article Comment 4him commented at 7/22/2011 4:27:00 PM:

I do not have have school age childern. In the 14yrs I have lived in Columbus we have not had childern in the schools. Yet I pay taxes for something I can not use.

My husband while driving by Columbus High today saw the grass cutting crew. 2 guys on mowers and 3 guys standing/talking by the trucks. Many times throughout the school year lights are left on at CHS Sports Complex long after the games or pactices are over. Even the CHS soccer players know how to turn on the bright lights at the High School Soccer field. How about the other schools in the District? How many other abuses of the funds could be curtailed and save money?

Our income has been cut because of the economic times; our budget is reduced. My family does not go out to eat, we do not live in a newly built house, we do not even have paid television programming. We cut back to stay out of debt. Why can't CMSD learn to do the same. I can not afford more taxes! More people will move out of the city limits. Incuding me one fine day!


Article Comment hope commented at 7/22/2011 8:38:00 PM:

Let businesses and corporations pay this tax. The working men and women have been decimated by this depression.


Article Comment pat henry commented at 7/22/2011 8:44:00 PM:

Hope, you, like your hero B Rock Barry, are an economic infant.
Hey, Birnster, so are you. The parasites that had there picture made in front of the county courthouse with hands clasped in victory over winning approval for the new middle school (which is the core of this tax increase) should all be slapped. There was no dire need for that building, which is outside of the city limits, yet the citizens of Columbus are saddled with its cost. It's amazing to me that the same water boys at Dispatch who moaned about needing a new school (when numerouse schoold buildings now sit empty and useless) are the same ones who are now moaning about having to pay for it. Typical brain dead liberals


Article Comment pat henry commented at 7/23/2011 4:25:00 PM:

Yeah, Birney and the water boys didn't plan for that - there's no tax base in Columbus. At least 65% of the population in Columbus is taking from the system, not contributing. But Hope, Birney, and the rest of the parasitic caucus just think "businesses will pay for if". You liberals are really showing just how stupid you really are on this one.


Article Comment jls commented at 7/23/2011 6:29:00 PM:

Why is ANYONE surprised?? The middle school was a white elephant from its conception; now, its breeder has left us for greener pastures while our poor city is stuck with its care and feeding. I say that only those who voted FOR this monstrosity should pay higher taxes; those of us who had the common sense to vote AGAINST should be exempt. And, while we're at it, maybe good ol' Del should send his generous pay raise back to MS to help pay for it!!!


Article Comment zenreaper commented at 7/23/2011 10:02:00 PM:

Increased tax burden is passed on to the consumer. Econ 101. So yeah, make the BUSINESSES that will raise the PRICES pay for it so WE can pay more for the products.


Article Comment hope commented at 7/24/2011 9:40:00 AM:

You guys can get back some of your money by taking your pencil and marking the price up. But the guy working for you can't. They fall deeper down into the crack, and pretty soon they'll realize they would be better off by drawing their unemployment. People who are on fixed income have no recourse at all,other than to spend less. And the Republicans want to cut them more! And then there's people wanting reverse mortgages on your home. I guess the two go hand in hand.
If you guys can pass it on to the consumer, why such an outcry when some politicians try to do away with the tax loopholes?
I have a woderful idea, since we can't outsource our education. The concert and the bass tournament that are coming to town, have all the extra tax that is collected go to paying for the school. That way business, who are going to get more business and the taxpayers will be treated fairly.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 7/25/2011 8:15:00 AM:

I swear, watching this town is like seeing a dog biting his own foot for being too close to the food bowl.

Did anyone ever look to see who all was going to make money off this school we had to have built?

So now the credit card bill has shown up in the mail, huh? All that bus'n fuel, building materials, heating/cooling expenses, my my. Don't be looking for me to pay any of it, it's not going to happen.

But I'll tell you what I will do for you: I'll wait until you're not looking to laugh.


Article Comment trouble commented at 7/25/2011 3:01:00 PM:

Why do we allow outsiders to come and rob us blind. We did not need a new middle school, could have taken the 524,000 dollars used to fix up Hunt and fix up Lee. The high school is the eye sore. Then we added on to 3 elementary schools for what? Our school board is a JOKE! Shame on you. Thats who I blame for all of this MESS! Looking good on paper so others will come to your school should not be top prority what should be are those kids at the high school that can not read, those are the ones out here shooting, stealing and killing!


Article Comment pat henry commented at 7/26/2011 1:51:00 PM:

Hopeless, I guess you live off the land and don't shop anywhere in the area affected by the tax increase. Not too familiar with macro economics, are you. I will say that you're playing the victim role quite well


Article Comment queenie63 commented at 7/29/2011 8:50:00 AM:

I just want to know how much the mayor's girlfriend makes working for the school district? All I ever see her doing is riding around all day with another employee in the vehicle. Also, how can the council justify appointing Gretta Gardner back to the Housing Authority when she is the Mayor's right hand. She handles all of his personal dealings with his businesses. Sounds like a conflict of interest to me.


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