Supervisors should lower tax millage

Published 11:47 pm Monday, September 11, 2017

With the current political climate of local elected and appointed officials, multiple tax increases seem inevitable, as the idea of “tax and spend,” settles in as the norm in Natchez-Adams County governments.

For the last several years, taxpayers have seen their property assessments edging up thus the actual taxes are going up as a result. Last year and this year are double whammies, where real and personal property taxes increased. On top of that, Adams County got an additional tax increase gift from the Adams County School Board as they raised its millage to pay for operational expenses. Once tax millages are put in place, you almost never see them reversed. Especially school millages.

This year, due to the fourth year state mandated property re-assessment requirement, we will have to swallow another automatic tax increase on all real and personal property. Because the value of most properties went up. Right behind the states mandated re-appraisal tax increase, will come another tax increase. It will come by way of the ever determined,  Adams County School Board, to further their $9 million dollar expansion agenda, unless otherwise stopped by a court of law.

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But wait, it doesn’t stop there. If you live inside the city limits you will get a part of the double whammy from the mayor and Board of Aldermen. Their plans are to raise the city millage by 2-4 mills, which are reported to have a value of about $117,000 each, in order to give policemen and firemen a pay raise. In my opinion they should get a pay raise. But the method is a little punitive to the taxpayer. What is not being factored into the discussion is this probability.

Due to last year’s increase in assessments from new construction and this year’s fourth year state mandated assessments, there are already additional taxes being collected because the millage is worth more and there are more properties on the tax roll to tax. There will be more new properties put on the tax roll next year, too. There should be enough money to run all local governments without raising taxes.

But in order to make this work, there needs to be a “STOP unnecessary spending and CUT expenses” policy put in place now, for both city and county governments. Although the the autocratic school board’s policy seems to be “spend more than you have,” they should put the same policy in place also. Each department in all local governments need to be streamlined. In Adams County, from years 2004-2011, plants had closed, property assessments were down, unemployment was high, the hospital was hemorrhaging, there was no real new construction happening and people were leaving. The Supervisors lowered property taxes 3 times, some raises were granted, purchases of equipment and vehicles were made only if absolutely necessary,  the county debt was lowered by $9,000,000 dollars and there were only 36 county employees on the road department.  One year when the school board raised its tax millage, the Supervisors countered by lowering its own county millage to offset the schools tax increase. Thus, no new taxes. It can be done! It takes discipline and leadership.

Last year pay increases were granted by the supervisors, and at least one personal vehicle. Although it was stated, those were gifts by God, the taxpayers ended up paying for it. This year, the supervisors are contemplating a 5 percent pay increase to its employees and along with it will come their allegiance and vote.

Yes, I would say as long as government spending is an obsession, tax increases will continue to follow. But right now, with the windfall of property values increasing, more property being put on the tax rolls, state mandated  re-appraisal and more taxes being collected, the supervisors have an opportunity to capitalize on the situation.

One supervisor on two different occasions has said, “he and the Board did not have the stomach to raise taxes this year.” (I might add, and they should not.)

But the question that begs to be asked is with the double windfall of property reassessment and more taxes already being collected and more to come, does he and the Board have the stomach to actually lower the county tax millage, since everyone else is raising taxes?


Henry Watts is a Natchez and Adams County resident.