County makes move to fund education

Published 10:52 am Thursday, September 10, 2015

Taxpayers in Warren County will see higher tax bills when they arrive in December after the Board of Supervisors approved an increase to further fund education.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to raise the millage rate from 91.77 to 95.08 mills — an increase of 3.31 mills — as they approved a budget for fiscal 2015-16 that spends $15.8 million.

The tax hike translates into $33.10 more in taxes for every $100,000 assessed on homes, businesses, agricultural land and other property, though most departments will see less funding this year as education takes the lion’s share.

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“All of these numbers go down because of the school district’s tax increase,” County Administrator John Smith said.

The school district will receive 56.35 cents for every dollar of tax revenue compared to 54.78 cents per every dollar in fiscal 2014-15, Smith said. Every other area the county funds — the public library, road maintenance, Hinds Community College, debt services and general county operations — decreased to allow for the school district’s increased millage.

“Unless we raise the taxes to cover any kind of increase in any one of these segments, the rest of them go down. We’re losing money on the rest of them. We try to hold taxes down but when things go up and on schools we don’t have a choice. We have to raise taxes for those in the amount they require unless they exceed a certain percentage,” Board president Bill Lauderdale said.

Smith said the school district’s request could not be turned down under state law because it did not exceed spending limitations.

Linda Parker, a resident of District 5, was the only person to speak during a budget proposal hearing before supervisors voted on the tax increase. She said she did not agree with increasing school funding.

“Throwing money at the school system is not going to be the answer,” Parker said.

District 2 Supervisor Charles Selmon said Parker should take her concerns to the school board, who determines how the money is spent.

“We have nothing to do with how they spend the money,” Selmon said.

District 1 Supervisor John Arnold was the sole dissenting vote against the budget, saying the county could be more responsible with its money.

“There are expenditures on there I don’t agree with,” Arnold said after the meeting. “I believe we could save taxpayer money on a lot of things we’re doing that I don’t agree with.” Arnold pointed to the county’s continued spending of $262,651 to operate the Kings Point Ferry and use of gaming funds to pay for projects other than road maintenance.

“I think people really truly were led to believe the gaming money was meant to pave our roads,” Arnold said.