September 15, 2009 9:25:00 AM
Tim Pratt -
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors Monday unanimously approved a 5.14-mill property tax increase as part of its 2009-2010 fiscal year budget.
For the owner of a $100,000 home, a 5.14-mill increase will cost an extra $51.40 per year in property taxes. The owner of a $200,000 home now will have to pay an extra $102.80 per year.
A majority of the increase is needed to pay for the Oktibbeha County Hospital bond issue, which county voters approved in a referendum last fall for construction and renovations. The county pledged to levy 4.28 mills toward the hospital''s bonded debt.
Supervisors also increased funds for volunteer fire services, from 2 mills up to 2.2, and for countywide bridge and road work. Bridges received a 0.5-mill increase, from 5 to 5.5, while roads went up from 4.3 mills to 4.5.
A county mill is worth $276,370, compared to about $267,000 last year, County Administrator Don Posey said.
Several citizens attended the supervisors'' meeting and spoke out against the tax increase.
"Folks, it''s tough times," said Nelson Jones, of Sessums. "I''ve cut back in my house. I don''t take trips. I don''t spend money I don''t have to. I don''t go out to eat like I used to. I''ve cut back and I expect you folks who represent the citizens of Oktibbeha County to cut back also. Don''t raise our taxes."
Katherine Henry, of Longview, also disapproved of the tax increase.
"Social Security is not giving a cost of living increase this year; our property gets reassessed all the time; our sales tax goes up; everything goes up," Henry said. "We need a break, especially us retired folks who are living on Social Security."
However, 83 percent of the tax increase is going toward a $27.5 million hospital bond issue, which was approved by voters in October 2008, District 4 Supervisor Daniel Jackson reiterated.
"This was a public election," Jackson said. "This was what the citizens voted for."
With a 3-2 vote, supervisors Monday also approved a pay increase for themselves, the county attorney and prosecutor and three justice court judges. But the raise was state-mandated and not included in the general fund, so it didn''t cause the tax increase, District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said.
The state required the pay raise because the county''s total assessed value went from roughly $297 million last year to more than $307 million this year, which bumped the county into a different tax bracket, Posey said.
Jackson and District 1 Supervisor Carl Clardy voted against the pay raise, which increased their salaries from $40,400 per year to $44,700.
"Even though the state has their scale and, like Mr. Posey said, we''ve gone above $300 million; I''m satisfied with the salary I''m drawing now," Jackson said.
But Howard, who voted in favor of the raise, said he was considering the well-being of the other employees who would see the pay increase.
"To penalize them by trying not to give ourselves a raise wouldn''t be viable," Howard said.