City leaders: Tax increase necessary

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 23, 2000

A proposed 20 percent tax increase may be necessary to put the City of Natchez on a &uot;sound financial basis,&uot; city officials say.

Included in a $3.3 million preliminary budget approved by the Natchez Board of Aldermen Tuesday night is a 7.428 mill increase in property taxes.

The current millage rate has stood at a little more than 33 mills for more than 15 years when the city last raised taxes.

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&uot;We’re just trying to get the city on a sound financial basis for the next several years,&uot; City Clerk Donnie Holloway said.

With the proposed increase, the total amount accumulated by the city would come to $665,898 a year, Holloway said.

Tuesday’s vote follows recent promises by city officials that the city’s financial status is stable.

Holloway said that is still the case, but a tax increase may be necessary to keep up with the rising costs of living and consumer price index. &uot;You don’t like to raise taxes; nobody likes to raise taxes,&uot; Holloway said.

Since city taxes were last raised in 1985, the average cost of living has increased by more than 56 percent, Holloway said.

Based on the proposed millage rate formula, homeowners of property valued at $100,000 can expect to pay $74.82 yearly in property taxes, Holloway said.

Translated for a $50,000 home, the amount comes to half that — $37.41. A small price to pay, Ward 3 Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West said, for the benefits city residents would receive.

&uot;Is our hometown worth contributing $35 to $50, $60 to provide these services?&uot; West asked.

A majority of the millage increase would be applied toward economic development, Holloway said.

The preliminary budget commits 1.24 mills to economic development, 2.159 mills to libraries and 4.199 mills to servicing the city’s bond debt, specifically general obligation bonds issued in 1998 and 1999, Holloway said.

City officials say city projects, such as the convention center and proposed riverfront development, are investments from which the city will in turn collect increased sales tax revenues.

&uot;Hopefully, all these projects will be up and running in the next year-and-a-half to two years, so we won’t have to raise taxes again for several years,&uot; Holloway said.

The preliminary budget is a result of more than a month of meetings between department heads, the mayor and Holloway.

Three &uot;budget hearing meetings&uot; attended by the aldermen, mayor and city clerk have taken place in the last few weeks, Holloway said.

&uot;(We have been) looking at which direction we need to take,&uot; Holloway said of the meetings.

While all aldermen were informed of the meetings, all were not able to attend, Holloway said.

No public notice of the meetings was issued, Deputy City Clerk Christy Huddleston said.

Holloway said the meetings are standard procedure in reviewing the yearly budget, as it is with the Adams County Board of Supervisors.

Before the preliminary budget can be put into effect, a public hearing must be held where citizens can voice their concerns and make suggestions.

Aldermen set the hearing for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, at the City Council Chambers on Pearl Street.

&uot;There needs to be a lot of dialogue — and not hot air — between now and then,&uot; West said.

&uot;If someone has a better plan, please share that with us,&uot; he said.