Board of Selectmen OKs millage rates

By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
DAILY TIMES LEADER

The West Point Board of Selectmen approved the city's millage rates for the budget passed in June at its meeting on Tuesday.

Two roll call votes were had to approve the general city millage rate and the millage rate for the West Point Consolidated School District.

Both millage rates passed with Ward 2 Selectman William Binder and Ward 4 Selectman Keith McBrayer voting in favor, while Ward 1 Selectman Leta Turner and Ward 3 Selectman Ken Poole voted present on the two millage rate motions, as opposed to a voting for, or against, the motions.

Ward 5 Selectman Jasper Pittman was the only selectman to vote no on the two millage rates.

The general city millage rate - 29.40 mills - was left unchanged by the vote, while the West Point Consolidated School District millage rate was increased from 53.60 mills in FY2017 to 55.35 mills for FY2018.

"We did go up on debt service, 1.75 (mills) because, unless you want to default on your bonds, you have to pay your principal and interest like paying for your car," Mayor Robbie Robinson said. "If you don’t pay for it, they repossess it. We just had some streets paved, which we badly needed. You can pay for it now or pay for it later."

In total, Robinson said the city had $1.4 million worth of streets paved last year. The 1.75-mill rate represents $1.75 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, meaning a $100,000 home assessed at $10,000 would result in an impact of roughly $17.50.

The assessed value of the city dropped from $90,015,854 in FY2017 to $89,688,456 in FY2018.

The 1.25 mill rate for the library was unchanged from the previous year.

“Even though the assessed valuation for the city dropped slightly, we feel like we can get by with that 29.40 (mill rate) without raising it," Robinson said. "The general budget went down slightly, about 2 percent, revenues went down, expenses went down as budgeted for the next coming year, so we didn’t have to move that millage rate."

Robinson said those who own their home get homestead exemptions from the mill increase, which would result in the impact being felt by rental properties and businesses more than anyone else.

SCHOOL DISTRICT

Ward 5 Selectman Jasper Pittman voiced his opposition to raising the millage rate for the school district, saying he did not believe the school board did its due diligence, while leaving the blame to be had by the Board of Selectmen.

"We are the custodians of taxpayer dollars and the school board are the administrators of the taxpayer dollars, too, and I have a problem with putting the burden on us and we getting the blame for it," Pittman said.

Pittman elaborated on his opposition, pointing to the district spending "$16,000 a month just to cut the grass."

"I want to know how the kids benefit from $16,000 to cut the grass," Pittman said. "I don't understand the salary increases, but you all looking at us wanting us to be responsible with taxpayer dollars. I hope at the next school board meeting people can vent their frustration out."

West Point Consolidated School District Superintendent Burnell McDonald told the Daily Times Leader the issue of landscape servicing has come up before, but the total given by Pittman is "not correct."

“We bid those landscaping services out," McDonald said. "We took the best bid. We went and took time and had people come in and show us what they needed to do, and give us a bid."

McDonald said when the state legislature is short on funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), it puts additional financial pressure on local communities to have more responsibility in providing resources for their school.

"The problems you see with funding like small communities that don’t have the resources like Tupelo, Starkville, Columbus, when we don’t get those funds from MAEP, it hurts us locally," McDonald said.

McDonald said the district ideally did not want to request additional funding from the local level, but the money will be used for district maintenance, including things like utilities, administrative salaries or any other needs that may arise in the district.

“The increase we are talking about, this is the first time we have requested what we could have been requesting every year,” McDonald said. "This is the first time we requested the 4 percent increase the state law allows us to request every year and probably the second time in 10 years the district has requested it."

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