August 14, 2019 10:56:45 AM
Lowndes County School District's board approved raising the tax millage rate Tuesday night, though the hike was only about half of what members originally projected.
By a unanimous vote, the board requested a 0.7-mill increase -- from 46.71 to 47.41 -- which is projected to generate about $315,000 in new revenue.
Millage is figured into property taxes. A person who owns a $100,000 home without a Homestead exemption would see their taxes increase by less than $10 annually.
The district is looking to rebuild its operating fund balance, which has dropped from a high of $17 million in 2014 to a little more than $4 million on June 30, the end of the 2019 fiscal year. District Business Officer Kenneth Hughes said with the increase, the district's balance should climb back to $5.2 million by the end of FY 2020, which will exceed the 7.5 percent of operations revenue recommended by the state to keep in reserve and inch closer to the 15 percent reserve LCSD board policy dictates.
"There's hardly anything we can cut," Hughes said. "... If we want to bring (the fund balance) back to 15 percent, that's something we need to do."
The tax increase also comes in spite of estimates from Lowndes County Tax Assessor/Collector Greg Andrews that LCSD would bring in an additional $2.8 million in revenue this year even without the mill hike.
Andrews said LCSD's mill value increased from $400,000 to $451,000, with three major industrial expansions, an expiring 10-year fee-in-lieu agreement at Paccar and returning tax revenues from businesses located at Golden Triangle Regional Airport accounting for most of the bump.
A Mississippi Supreme Court decision exempted businesses located on airport property from paying any ad valorem tax in Fiscal Year 2019 -- which cost LCSD more than $800,000 between Airbus, Aurora Flight Sciences and Stark Aerospace. The Mississippi Legislature changed the law earlier this year, allowing taxes to be collected again at those businesses beginning in FY 2020.
A fee-in-lieu is an agreement between the county and developers of projects valued at at least $100 million that allows the business to pay one-third of its total taxes for up to 10 years. After the agreement expires, the business begins paying full taxes.
Additionally, LCSD cut 62 teaching positions at the beginning of the fiscal year to save the district at least another $500,000.
On the expense side, LCSD's approved budget for FY 2020 shows debt service increasing from just more than $3 million to $4.7 million. Most of that total will go toward repaying a $44 million bond issued in 2015 for construction of new facilities.
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