$15.4M budget includes tax hike to fund schools

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Lincoln County supervisors Tuesday approved a $15.4 millionbudget that includes a property tax levy increase for county schooloperations.

No citizens were present to comment on the budget during amorning public hearing. Supervisors applauded the budget and countyofficials’ ability to hold expenses in check.

“I think it’s a good budget,” said District Five Supervisor GaryWalker. “We raised our part (of the tax levy) zero and the schools2.96 (mills).”

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Regarding revenue to fund the county’s $11.8 million budget,$7.3 million is expected to come from property taxes while $4.5million will be from other sources. The budget is up $344,587, or2.99 percent, from last year.

County Administrator David Fields said changes in propertyappraisals provided a means for the county to get a little moremoney without raising the 39.89-mill tax levy for countyoperations.

“Increases in property value and new property allowed us to dothat,” Fields said.

Residents of the Lincoln County School District, however, willbe digging a little deeper into their pockets to fund the $3.54million requested for school operations. Local support for schooloperation is up $367,819, or 8.18 percent, from last year’s $3.27million.

The tax levy for county schools was raised from 52.52 mills thisyear to 55.48 mills for next year, an increase of 2.96 mills. Onemill is equal on $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value,meaning a $100,000 homeowner will be paying about $29.60 more inproperty taxes.

Schools across the state were underfunded during the 2004legislative session. School leaders have begun a grassrootslegislative effort to get full funding for the Mississippi AdequateEducation Program during the 2005 session.

State budget woes contributed to a familiar lament bysupervisors in that more money was not available for county roadsand bridges. Supervisors cited a road funding freeze at the statelevel.

“We need more roads and bridges,” said District Two Supervisorand Board President Bobby J. Watts.

Walker also pointed out that the Local System Bridge Program wasnot reauthorized for the new year. Lincoln County has been one ofthe most active counties in utilizing state funds for bridgerepairs.

“We hope it comes up again next year,” Walker said of theprogram.

In other budget areas, Fields said the officials were able toinclude funds for 3 percent employee pay raises and similarpercentage increases for departments’ higher fuel and utilityexpenses.

“It’s the normal, basic costs of living,” he said.

Local agencies, such as the library, the chamber of commerce andothers, that receive funding support from the county were kept atthe same level as this year.

Fields said Copiah-Lincoln Community College did receive aslight increase in its millage, from 4.43 mills this year to atotal 5 mills next year. He said the school had asked from 5.5mills, with part of the county money being saved along with statebond money to pursue a new building for the Wesson campus.

“We were able to adjust some other areas and left the overallmillage the same,” Fields said.