Only handful of people go to tax hearing

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 6, 2001

A handful of people attended a public hearing Thursday to discuss a proposed tax increase by the Natchez-Adams School District.

&uot;I would suggest that the board exercise fiscal discipline,&uot; said Dr. John M. Lee, a former professor of Alcorn State University.

Faced with cuts from the state, an increase in insurance, wage and hour litigation and an increase in utility costs, school board members say the tax increase is necessary even though they cut all the district’s budgets this year.

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It would be the first time the Natchez-Adams School District has asked for an increase in five years said Kenneth Taylor, school board president.

&uot;It’s just that we’re faced with an increase of expenditures we did not have control of,&uot; Taylor said.

The Natchez-Adams School District has proposed increasing in its property rate from 43.9 to 46.32 mills. The extra 2.42 mills – a figure used to calculate property values for tax purposes – equals about $36 extra dollars a year in taxes or 10 cents a day on a house valued at $100,000.

&uot;That’s a small amount to pay to educate our boys and girls,&uot; said Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis. The Natchez-Adams School District has proposed revenues of $38,030,145 for the 2001-02 school year. Twenty-seven percent of that revenue would come from local sources such as the ad valorem tax on property. The school district also is ranked 13th in the state is its expenditures per student: spending $6,112 per student. The state average is $5,120.

&uot;We spent all this money and you’re asking the taxpayers of the community to spend more money,&uot; said Dr. J.R. Todd.

He asked the school officials to avoid just throwing money at a problem without success

&uot;As a taxpayer of this community, we have to expect some results,&uot; Todd said.

Lee also wanted to make sure that money was not being wasted.

&uot;We can always be proud to tell others we spend more per student,&uot; Lee said. &uot;The idea is compared with performance. Do our students score in the 13th highest on standardized tests?&uot;

Davis said the school district is working to make improvements and he looks upon the 13th ranking as a positive thing.

&uot;That’s not bad,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s good in the sense that the kids’ needs are being met.&uot;

But problems in the district did not happen overnight and will take time to correct.

&uot;(In time) I believe that we’re going to have those good gains that you talked about,&uot; Davis said.

The eight people who attended the hearing, not counting school officials, also discussed teacher shortages, teacher salaries and the trouble with the economy and how it’s tied to the local tax base and education.

&uot;Before we actually see industry come in (and) the economy improves we (should) not increase any tax,&uot; Lee said.

And as to why the school district is often perceived in a bad light and blamed for lack of local industry, Davis said he thought some of that stemmed from past history and a 1989 desegregation court order. It only allows the school district to operate the schools currently open.

&uot;And, truthfully, I’m telling you (the school district’s) not that bad. We have some challenges to overcome,&uot; Davis said. &uot;We believe we are an improving school district.&uot;

The school board will approve the budget at its regular meeting on July 12.