Schools raising millage rates, could hike taxes across county

Published 11:59 am Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lower assessed property values will translate into higher millage rates but not necessarily higher taxes, the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees said at a meeting Monday afternoon.

Three board members voted unanimously to approve the annual budget resolution for the county Board of Supervisors, requesting “the appropriate number of mills” be levied to provide $26,257,804 for support of the district’s regular programs. District 3 Trustee Jim Stirgus Jr. and District 5 Trustee Sally Bullard did not attend the meeting called earlier in the day.

Based on reduced property values determined by the Warren County tax assessor, the school millage will rise 1.39 percent to $47.59 from $46.20, a level at which it has been held for several years.

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The district does not ask supervisors for a specific millage rate, finance director Dale McClung told the board, but for the total amount of local funds needed for its programs. For the 2012-13 year, the total is about $70,000 less than what the board requested in its 2012 resolution, though the lower total assessed valuation impacts the tax rate.

“It will increase the millage that we have to ask for, but it more nearly equals what we asked for the previous year, for ’11-’12,” McClung said. “If we did a calculation at $46.20, we would lose $845,000, and you know the budget was tight as it was, trying to make that 7 percent of revenue for our carryover.”

Whether the increased millage will translate into an increase in Warren County homeowners’ taxes will depend upon the assessed value of the home.

“As required by law, the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees passed a resolution for the Warren County Board of Supervisors requesting ad valorem tax payments to benefit the public school system in this county,” said Dr. Elizabeth Swinford, superintendent, in a prepared statement trustees directed her to release.

“For the 2012-2013 school year, the School Board requested slightly less money than it requested for the last fiscal year. It has recently come to our attention that county property values have decreased from last year. We are unsure of how this might affect millage; however, we want to make clear that the school district is not requesting an increase in funds from the county for this school year.”

The board approved its 2012-13 school year budget June 28. The budget projects total revenues of $78,878,022, about 36 percent of which will come from local tax collections, which include ad valorem taxes as well as other types of local revenue.

The budget calls for expenditures of $84,835,040. The $7.9 million difference will be covered by reserves being carried forward from the 2011-12 school year. State law requires school districts to maintain at least 7 percent of its projected revenues in reserve.

Millage rates are determined by a format developed by the state Board of Education and Office of the State Auditor, said McClung. The formula includes a number of adjustments and estimated deductions and additions to property taxes, such as an allowance for business bankruptcies in which no taxes would be paid.

Property taxes requested in the district’s resolution to county supervisors for 2011-12 totaled $26,326,988, with net assessed values of $576,040,304 and a $46.20 millage rate. A mill generates about $550,000, McClung said.

The board’s 2012-13 resolution is based on net assessed property values of $557,113,371, which nets the $47.59 millage.

“I’ve talked to (County Administrator) John Smith, and they are still looking for reasons why it dropped as it did… If we find a huge error and we ask for almost what we asked for last year, that millage rate will drop back down,” McClung told the board.

Updated property value assessments were contracted out by Tax Assessor Angela Brown following the retirements and resignations of every former staff member in the department following her election in November. One-fourth of the county’s properties are reassessed each year, so that every parcel and structure is reassessed on a four-year cycle.

Recent county budget drafts have projected tax increases and no raises for employees. The county’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The school’s year began July 1.

Monday’s meeting included about a one-hour closed session in which the board discussed several litigation items. During the session, according to the minutes, the board “authorized the superintendent to resolve the claim of breach of contract” for an employee.