School tax hike doesn’t need county approval

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 30, 2010

NATCHEZ — If passed, the school district’s proposed tax hike would cost homeowners $30 more a year in property taxes on a house valued at $100,000.

The Natchez-Adams School District will have a public hearing at 4 p.m. Thursday at Braden Central Office in the boardroom to discuss the proposed property tax increase that would bring in $668,085 extra for the school district.

NASD Office Manager Margaret Parson said she used last year’s property tax assessment to calculate an appropriate mil increase based on extra funds needed to balance the school budget.

The increase will replace some of the nearly $1.5 million shortfall from the state, Parson said.

The extra dollars are based on a proposed 2.98 mil increase. A mil is calculated by dividing property value by 1,000. For instance, one mil for property worth $80,000 equals $8.

The school district’s local funding multiplies one mil by the tax levy it sets, which, if passed, will increase from 47.9 in 2010 to 50.88 in 2011.

Based on last year’s tax assessment, one mil in Adams County equals $228,000, Adams County Tax Assessor Reynolds Atkins said.

The school board last proposed a tax mil increase near this size in 2004, when taxes increased from 47.46 to 53.82 mils. Last year, the school board actually reduced the mileage rate by 6 mils from 2009, largely due to a county wide property reassessment that generated more tax dollars.

Since the school board has proposed a 4 to 7 percent property tax increase from last year, law requires the school board to have the public hearing.

If 20 percent, or 1,500 voters, petition the increase, an election will be necessary to approve the increase.

However, the school board can pass the tax increase on its own authority, without the approval of the board of supervisors if the increase is not petitioned.

Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said if the school board does not reach the top of a 55-mil cap, supervisors cannot do much to stop tax increases.

“I’ve been to numerous meetings on this issue, and unless they exceed the (55 mil) cap, there’s nothing the board of supervisors can do about it,” Grennell said.

“This is the very reason why school board leaders should be elected. Their ability to levy taxes (means) they should be elected by the people,” he added.

Grennell said the board of supervisors has not formed a group opinion of the proposed tax increase, but he hopes the school budget is accurate and economical.

“I think the school board needs to make sure they go through each department in their budget and make sure there’s no fat in there (and) make sure it’s accurate,” Grennell said.

Parson said cuts have been made at every school and in every department, and many retired teachers’ positions will not be filled.

However, she said it is often difficult to make budget cuts because the school district must adhere to several legal standards. For instance, each school must maintain a certain teacher-to-student ratio.

NASD is now operating with a projected budget of $46,486,851, with 23.13 percent or $10,753,485 funded by property taxes. For the next fiscal year, the proposed budget is $43,577,814, with 26 percent, or $11,421,570, funded by property taxes.

The final budget, including tax increases, will be approved by August 15, with the fiscal year starting October 1.

Parson said copies of the budget will be available at the public hearing. Extra copies can also be obtained at the front desk of the NASD building. A budget summary will be posted on the NASD Web site, as well.