August 14, 2013 10:59:36 AM
The shoutin' isn't over. In fact, it probably hasn't even begun.
But it appears Starkville will be raising taxes to support its 2014 budget.
During a budget workshop Tuesday, Ward 5 alderman and budget chairman Scott Maynard proposed a 3-mil increase in taxes, which would generate a little more than a half-million dollars to the city's budget.
In Starkville tax hikes are about as popular as Hotty Toddy cheers. Even so, it is hard to make a rational argument against raising taxes.
That is not to say there won't be several irrational arguments presented as the matter is discussed in the upcoming public hearings that are required by law when city's seek to raise taxes.
Leading that chorus will be Ward 6 alderman Roy A. Perkins, who along with Ward 7 alderman Henry Vaughn were the board's only dissenting voices to the plan to raise taxes.
Perkins, it is worth noting, is not opposed to spending tax money lavishly -- provided it is not his own tax money. During the debate over how the drainage issues on Carver Drive should be remedied, he strenuously supported the most expensive option available, mainly because most of the money would come from grants, which Perkins appears to liken as manna from heaven. That the grant money does not mysteriously materialize from thin air, that it originates from taxpayer funds collected by the state or federal government, does not appear to trouble Perkins.
There is little question that Perkins will lead the charge, followed dutifully by Vaughn.
But an odd alliance formed when this new board of aldermen came into office -- a partnership between the city's black leaders and tea party-backed newcomers Lisa Wynn and David Little -- seems to have fallen apart on this issue, which probably says much about the Starkville Tea Party's real strength. The movie title "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" seems an adequate portrayal of a group whose credibility has suffered a major blow from its ill-conceived attack on the city's chief administrative officer Lynn Spruill. While the "black tea party" faction won that battle -- it was able to force Spruill out -- the resulting tidal wave of criticism appears to have ended the group's short reign of terror. Wynn, Little and Prayin' Ben Carver aren't likely to be quite so cavalier in promoting the interests of such a clear minority of ideologues these days.
That doesn't mean the group will give up, of course.
Among the arguments it will present is that the city's plans to build a new municipal complex and renovate the Starkville Police Department is responsible for the tax hike. That, however, is clearly not the case since funding for the private/public project does not rely on new taxes. And even if it did, you could make a compelling argument for proceeding with the project anyway. One look at the current facilities, which are shared by the SPD and the city, is enough to confirm that the project is absolutely necessary. When the roof leaks, the wisest, most economical thing you can do is fix to roof. Period.
The evidence that the city needs to address infrastructure issues not related to that project and provide for modest raises for city employees is clear.
Taxes in Starkville are low. The proposed increase will not alter that truth.
When the shoutin' is indeed over, the need for the tax increase will be obvious and will be approved.