Tax increase averages about $10 a year

Staff Writer

West Point property owners will see slightly higher tax bills when notices go out later this year after the Board of Selectmen approved a small tax hike Tuesday night.

The recommendation from Mayor Robbie Robinson totals a 1.05 mill increase to fund general government and schools.

On a $100,000 home, the increase amounts to about $10 a year.

The new rate takes effect Oct. 1 and will be included when tax bills go out in November and December.

"It's not something you ever want to do, but we knew we were probably going to have a small increase in schools and the debt service worked out where we needed a small amount. It's better to go ahead and get it taken care of and hope we keep seeing growth in the overall value of property. That's what helps fund city government," Robinson said previously.

For the third straight year, the city's general fund millage will be 29.4, generating an estimated $2,412,861 toward the city's $7,837,157 budget for police and fire, public works and other city services.
The rate also includes 6.4 mills for debt service, a .9 mill increase from the current 5.5 mills. The increase is needed to cover the city's $532,181.38 in debt service payments.
The 1.25 mills allocated for the library will remain the same, generating an estimated $102,587, up from $97,270 this year.
The school tax will increase from 52.75 mills to 53 mills, generating $7,329,807, which is 2.5 percent more revenue than the current year.

The slight increase is needed to help the district offset reduced state funding.
And the school debt service millage will drop from 2.6 mills to 2.5 mills, generating the $313,400 necessary to cover the school district's debt service interest and principal.
That all means the total tax rate will increase from 91.5 mills to 92.55 mills.
The vote on the general fund tax rate was unanimous while the vote on the school tax was 2--1-2 with Selectmen Keith McBrayer and William Binder voting yes, Jasper Pittman voting no, and Selectmen Ken Poole and Let Turner voting present. By law, the measure passes.

"I am still not satisfied with all the school board spending, we need to be better spenders. Too much of the increase is going to administration. We need to do our part to make sure our teachers are compensated," Pittman said, summing up continued concerns about school board actions.

The overall value of a mill -- the amount of revenue one mill on the tax rate is projected to generate -- is increasing from the current $77,817 to $82,070 for the general fund. The value of a mill for the school district climbed from $132,710 to an estimated $137,781.

The value of a mill for the old school district area before consolidation rose from $115,926 to $121,111.

The old school district millage is the rate applied to the school district's debt service because that debt was in place prior to consolidation.mThe values are calculated by taking the total assessed values in the areas in question, subtracting homestead and other exemptions, and multiplying by a 95 percent collection rate.

That gets the net assessed value on which the mill is based.
In other business this week, Selectmen:

-- Learned Suncoast Infrastructure will be in the city by Oct. 1 to survey sewer lines in several areas for breaks and possible repairs. At $4 a foot, the project will cost the city about $20,000. But the camera survey is needed to pinpoint problems in the aging pipes in areas like James and Carver streets, where residents have complained, and other places where cracked or collapsed pipes are allowing storm water runoff to seep into the systems, overloading the city's treatment facilities and in some cases, causing sewage backup in yards;

-- Urged Water and Light Manager Boodro Marsac to consider putting a kiosk for bill payments at the Shell Station on the northern edge of town where customers already can pay some city fees. The kiosk would provide 24-hour access for city residents;

-- Learned the fire department will receive a $5,100 grant from the 4-County Electric Cooperative Foundation to buy high-tech CPR training equipment that tells trainees when they are doing CPR correctly or incorrectly. It also works with defibrillator training, Fire Chief Ken Wilbourne said. Ted Judson, the department's training officer, provides CPR training once a month on Saturday's at Fire Station 1 on Brame Avenue;

-- Learned the fire department was on standby to send two firefighters and a truck to South Carolina for response to Hurricane Florence, which is expected to hit the Carolinas later this week. As of Tuesday, the firefighters had been told to "stand down" because the hurricane's track had moved farther north. While West Point's members of the regional response team weren't called up, Columbus sent six firefighters to Virginia Tuesday afternoon. Wilbourne said some West Point firefighters could be sent to the Gulf Coast if a potential hurricane now brewing in Central American actually develops;

-- Authorized Emergency Management Director Torrey Williams to apply for a grant to purchase 17 weather radios to update current radios in all city and county schools and other government operations. In addition to weather warnings, the new versions would allow the EMA or 911 offices to set off alerts such as school lockdowns, chemical spills or other notices. Williams said he will ask the county to split the 10 percent match required for the grant if it is awarded. The county also is applying for one weather siren as part of its effects to expand siren coverage across the county.