County officials: School district’s budget request forces tax increase

Published 8:03 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2020

NATCHEZ — Adams County residents will pay an additional 2.03 mils in taxes to fund the Natchez Adams School District’s $14,237,156 budget for the next fiscal year.

One mil is equal to $1 per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

The Natchez Adams School district submitted the budget proposal to the Adams County Board of Supervisors last week and the board of supervisors accepted the budget during Monday’s regular meeting and agreed to assess a 53.21 millage rate which is up 2.03 mils from last year’s school district millage rate of 51.18.

Supervisors voted 4-1, with District 2 Supervisor Kevin Wilson voting against the measure, to approve the budget and the millage increase.

“The amount of the request is $14,237,156,” said Joe Murray, Adams County administrator. “It is really broken down into two requests under two different statutes. The first request is the school district’s annual support from millage in the amount of $13,791,687 and then an additional $445,469, which … is for the purpose of the renovation of the school. That combined amount is $14,237,156.”

NASD is proceeding with plans to build a $14 million new high school on the property known as the “bean field” adjacent to the current high school and the high school will be renovated to house middle school students.

That project will be financed through a combination of Trust Certificates and the millage increase, school officials have said.

Murray said the millage necessary to fund the budget is 53.21, which is up from 51.18 last year for a 2.03 mil increase.

Murray said the millage rate could change during the tax assessment process and supervisors could come back and amend the millage rate later if necessary.

District 5 Supervisor Warren Gaines moved that the board accept the budget and set the millage rate. District 3 Supervisor Angela Hutchins seconded the motion.

“Every single year we get this same request and this is the first year I’ve had to deal with it but I’ve seen it,” Wilson said during the discussion of the motion. “I’ve fought it and at some point, somebody is going to have to do something. We need board members that are more financially responsible, and they have never cut the budget. They have never cut any employees or even tried to do it and every year, more money, more money. I think now we are up to about $15,000 per student and I don’t see a lot of improvement. I don’t blame this on the teachers. I blame this on the school board (members) themselves.”

District 4 Supervisor and board president Ricky Gray said the millage rate fluctuates from year to year and has actually gone down in previous years but basically stays the same.

Board attorney Scott Slover said the NASD submits the budget requests only and that the millage rate is set by supervisors based on property assessments to fund the budget request.

“They just ask for what they ask for and they are allowed to ask for a 4% increase but they can’t exceed 55 mils without a special election on that, and of course, there’s numerous little exceptions, exemptions on that 55 mil rate, which we have not plugged in,” Slover said. “We’ve kept them in the same millage boundary so to speak.”

District 1 Supervisor Wes Middleton said he believes school board members should be elected instead of appointed as they are in Adams County, which has been an issue for decades in the county.

“All I want to say is if people have a problem with this this is where the community needs to push for an elected school board, and I’m just a strong believer in anybody who has the power to levy taxes needs to be an elected position, and that is all I want to say,” Middleton said.

Gray pointed out that the board of supervisors has been on the record for decades favoring an elected school board.