School board votes to increase taxes

Published 5:22 pm Thursday, July 12, 2012

In a 3-2 vote members of the Picayune Separate Municipal School District approved a motion to increase taxes on property owners.

While the district will ask for the same amount of money as they did last year, $8.2 million, the expectation of ad valorem assessments coming in lower than last year prompted the district’s financial administrator Lisa Penton to suggest the district ask for an additional 3 to 5 mills, even though the district is capped at 55 mills.

Penton said the district can legally request millage above the 55 mill cap in situations where lower property assessment will mean the district would receive less money than the previous year.

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Board member Ray Scott said the lower assessment will mean 55 mills will only generate about $7.6 million, so the city of Picayune will have to assess about another 5 mills to make up the difference or the district will fall between $700,000 to $1 million short. Scott and board member Jimmy Hancock were the only two board members to vocally oppose asking for a millage increase.

“A five mill increase is pretty substantial for a lot of homeowners,” Scott said.

Two board members made mention of a couple of board decisions that should have waited until a solid budget was determined. Scott said the board gave the district’s administration raises before they knew what the budget was going to look like, but the board should have waited before making any decisions on that matter. Board member Frank Feeley said the board should have looked for cheaper insurance for the district once they found out the policy had increased by $200,000.

City Clerk Amber Hinton said the council is legally obligated to approve the district’s request because the city is the district’s tax levying body. Hinton said a 5 mill increase will mean a homeowner with a house assessed at $100,000 will pay an additional $50.

The district does have funds they can dip into, about $2.7 million, Penton said. But state laws mandate the district is required to maintain that back up fund.

When the matter came to a vote Hancock and Scott opposed, but Feeley, Patti Stewart and Edward Stubbs voted for the matter, meaning it passed 3-2. The matter will now go before the council.

In other business the board approved a bid from HRL Construction to clear two lots near Roseland Park Elementary at a price of $4,500 in preparation for the construction of a multipurpose building. The board also approved a motion to award a contract to Bailey Architect at a cost of $25,000 for architectural services for the same building.