County supervisors question higher school taxes

Published 12:07 am Tuesday, July 16, 2013

NATCHEZ — Adams County’s taxes will likely go up this year, and the county supervisors want to know why.

The Natchez-Adams County School District officials have indicated they will be asking for a millage increase in the coming fiscal year, and the supervisors — who approve such requests — expressed concern about the possible tax increase Monday.

Supervisors’ President Darryl Grennell said the supervisors don’t actually have any legal option but to approve the tax-increase request, but because the request has to come through the supervisors he wants to know why it is being made.

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Until last year, the supervisors had tried to adjust the county millage downward to compensate for the new school district taxes so that county residents would not see an increase in their tax bill, but Grennell said that’s no longer an option.

“I don’t like doing that because it puts us in a bind,” he said. “I would like for someone from their board of trustees to come here and state the rationale to justify the need for an increase in millage from the school system.”

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said the county has in the past reduced its millage in compensation for the school district’s increases to the point that the county is “shooting ourselves in the foot.”

“We are trying our best not to raise taxes,” Lazarus said. “We are making cuts everywhere, and if you look at the people we have added in to increase services to the community without increasing taxes, it really shows how (County Administrator Joe Murray) is doing a good job. If we can do that as a board and (county administrator), I think it shows that there is something they can do over there — I am not going to cut my money to do the things we need to do like the sheriff’s office.”

Lazarus pointed to the example of the county creating a litter control and information technology office as examples of positions that have been created without raising taxes.

Board attorney Scott Slover likened the county’s past practice of downward millage adjustment to a tax break.

“Even if the board of supervisors decreases its millage to nothing, the school board millage remains the same,” Slover said. “Even if we had no taxes, that (school) tax would remain the same, and we can’t lower their millage.”

And that’s why the county can no longer offset the school district’s millage increases, Lazarus said.

“It is like they are taking money from the county,” he said.