September 5, 2018 10:56:36 AM
Alex Holloway - [email protected]
Starkville aldermen approved a $21.77 million budget -- and with it, a 1.05-mill tax increase -- for Fiscal Year 2019 on a split vote Tuesday.
The budget, which aldermen have been discussing since early August, includes about $835,750 in new major or policy related expenditures, compared to last year's $20.92 million budget.
The tax increase will raise the city's millage rate from 25.58 mills to 26.63 mills and is expected to generate about $266,000. Most of the additional money for the increased budget is expected to come from the increase in the value of a city mill, which has gone from $235,000 to $240,000, depending on the collection rate, to about $250,000.
Mills are used to calculate property taxes. Ad valorem tax revenue is based on the assessed value of real and personal property. So, the value of one mill helps public entities, such as counties, cities and school districts, determine how many mills to levy in taxes each year.
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 3 Alderman David Little, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker and Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller voted in favor of the budget and millage increase. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn voted against it.
Little, during the meeting, said he thought the increase was a "small amount" to ask for the city to push to better its parks system.
"If we were not doing that, or weren't having it dedicated or designated to a particular fund such as that, I would not be voting in support of it tonight," he said. "... If we're going to take some kind of major parks investment for a major tournament park, we've got to bring our parks up to speed and this is going to be a step in that direction."
Mayor Lynn Spruill said the increases, both in spending and millage to help buoy it, are necessary steps if Starkville wants to improve. She also said future revenue from a use tax diversion to cities that state legislators approved last week may also help in bolstering the city's efforts.
"The things we want to do, they're going to return funds to us in ways that are not necessarily direct," Spruill said. "But we have to spend in order to increase the type of things that we think are important for quality of life and continued growth. Continued growth is how we're going to make ourselves the best place to be in Mississippi and keep that status."
Sistrunk said the willingness to pay more money for parks would indicate how serious officials were about improving them.
"I think that failing to vote for this particular budget indicates a lack of willingness to support the conversations we've been having about the parks," she said. "When push comes to shove, rubber meets the road -- whatever metaphor you want to use -- takes money to do these things."
Carver, speaking after the meeting, said he didn't think the city needed the tax increase to support its new spending initiatives. He also said he thinks that, in the near future, the board will be voting on "big ticket" expenses such as Little League fields and other major projects.
"I didn't think it was necessary to perform the duties we have to do this year," Carver said. "Being a reassessment year, I think this was actually an opportunity -- we had some free money. In my opinion, it doesn't necessitate the time for a tax increase."
The bulk of FY 19's new expenses comes from a major boost in spending to the city's parks and recreation department. The budget includes a $440,000 boost to parks spending to begin major renovation and maintenance projects at city facilities.
Additional increases in the budget include $138,000 interest on bonds issued for capital projects, $110,000 for chip seal road projects and a $40,000 increase in payments for the Public Employees Retirement System of Mississippi.
The budget has about $52,750 in increased outside contributions. That includes about $50,000 for the Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit system and an increase from $10,000 to $20,000 for the Mississippi Horse Park.
The proposed budget also includes $55,000 in increased departmental funding. The Starkville Police Department is beginning a promotion process to fill its positions for lieutenants, sergeants and captains, which is estimated to cost about $40,000. The city's information technology department is budgeted to receive $15,000 for new security cameras.
Millage increase impact
A person younger than 65 years old in a $75,000 home with a homestead exemption would see a roughly $8 per year tax increase from the mill hike. Someone in the same home without a homestead exemption or someone with a commercial property would see a $13 per year increase. A person in the same home who is 65 years old or older, or is disabled, would see no change.
Someone in a $150,000 home with a homestead exemption would see a change of slightly more than $15. A person who is 65 or older, or disabled, in a $150,000 home would see an increase of about $8. A resident without a homestead exemption in a $150,000 home or commercial property would see an increase of about $22 per year.
A person in a $350,000 home with a homestead exemption would see a roughly $35 increase. Someone in the same home who is 65 or older, or disabled, would see a roughly $28 per year increase. A commercial property or home without a homestead exemption would see a roughly $55 increase.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.