County will raise pay without tax increase

September 14, 2013 8:28:08 PM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


Oktibbeha County supervisors approved a $29.63 million operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year that provides an across-the-board, 3 percent pay raise for full-time employees and allocates monies for East Mississippi Community College capital improvement projects. 


While the county's operating budget increased compared to last fiscal year's amount -- the general county fund jumped $798,9000, while "other funds" increased almost $734,000 -- County Administrator Don Posey, under supervisors' guidance, was able to balance cuts, increases and rolling millage without raising taxes. 


"At the end of the day, it's great to be able to come out with a budget that tends to more things without increasing the taxpayers' burden," District 1 Supervisor and Board Vice President John Montgomery said Friday. "Don and (Oktibbeha County Comptroller) Emily Garrard have been instrumental in helping work this budget out. 


"As far as the 3 percent raise, we're fortunate enough to be able to give our employees a much-needed raise," he added, "but you always wish you could do more." 


Supervisors set the county millage rate at 52.96 mills, which is an increase of 0.99 mills from the last fiscal year. That rate includes streams for general county operations; road and bridge maintenance; pledged OCH Regional Medical Center levies, hospital support and debt service; and volunteer firefighting efforts. 


Two county millage streams for school maintenance and note payments decreased 0.99 mills, offsetting the county increase. The total county contribution for school purposes -- those two streams and a 1-mill contribution to Starkville School District's Millsaps Career and Technology Center -- is set at 58.01 mills. 


Combined with schools, the county ad valorem rate is 110.97 mills for the upcoming fiscal year. One county mill brings in $307,380 this fiscal year. 


Property taxes are calculated with mills. One mill is worth one-thousandth of a dollar. For example, if the millage rate is 20 mills, a property owner pays $20 for every $1,000 of assessed value on his or her property. The assessed value of a property is the appraised value multiplied by the assessment ratio (10 percent for residential properties). The owner of a property appraised for $100,000 in this example would owe $200 in taxes.  


The county's budget does contain two significant new expense streams. Supervisors allocated $100,000 this year to help pay for Oktibbeha's part in tri-county economic development initiatives with the Golden Triangle Development Link. Also, supervisors provided EMCC with $230,535 for capital improvement projects tied to expanding the school's capacity as its services are expected to increase over the next few years. 


EMCC President Rick Young previously approached area representatives this summer for monies to help fund a two-phase, $34 million expansion project. future Golden Triangle industrial development is expected to push the school's enrollment and workforce training levels.  


Officials hope to construct a student housing complex for its Scooba campus and a Golden Triangle campus student union with classroom space. The school is expected to expand its Allied Health program with the additional space and provide living areas in Scooba where lower capacity sometimes turns away potential students. 


Other expansion projects could follow in the future. Young told Oktibbeha County supervisors in June that a dormitory for the Golden Triangle campus could follow by 2018 in order to meet expected student influx. 


EMCC was seeking financial contributions from six counties -- Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay, Noxubee, Kemper and Lauderdale -- based upon how many students from each area were in enrolled during the 2011-2012 school year.  


Young pitched two, 3-percent interest funding options which spread 15-year and 20-year payments across the six counties. 


Under the approved budget, Oktibbeha County's $230,535 contribution for capital improvements is lower than how much was asked of it under the two plans -- $455,551 and $331,403, respectively.

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch