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Board approves new year tax increase

Brookhaven property owners will be paying more in taxes nextyear to support city operations after aldermen approved a $10.30million general fund budget Tuesday night for the new fiscal yearthat starts Oct. 1.

Also approved were a $2.18 million water and sewer budget and a$1.36 million solid waste budget. Those budgets are enterprisefunds, meaning revenue collected from service users must be enoughto support their operations.

The new general fund budget is actually down from this year’s $11.4million spending plan, but a number of grant-funded projects andother items are not in the new budget, according to a year-to-yearcomparison.

For property owners, however, a higher tax levy will mean more inproperty taxes when notices go out later this year.

The overall levy to support city operations and to fund the localcontribution to the Brookhaven School District is scheduled to goup 2.7 mills from 92.28 mills this year to 94.98 mills next year.The increase is made up of 1.91 mills more for city services and.79 mills more for the city school district.

Mills are used in conjunction with assessed property values todetermine how much individual property owners pay in taxes eachyear. The assessed value is a fraction of a property’s real or truemarket value.

The increase suggests property owners will be paying about $2.70more for every $1,000 of assessed property value, or about $27 moreon a $100,000 home with homestead exemption. Those who have seentheir property values increase over the year could be paying evenmore.

City officials had little to say about the budget during themeeting and immediately afterwards.

“We’re going to make it work,” said Mayor Les Bumgarner about newyear revenue and spending.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell, who made the motion to approve thebudget, acknowledged the tax increase after the meeting.

“It did go up a little … but it fluctuates,” said Maxwell,indicating some changes in debt service and other spendingareas.

Indeed, while going up for fiscal year 2011, the overall tax levyis down from the 95.81 levy for fiscal year 2009.

Another factor impacting the tax levy situation is overall propertyvalues.

According to totals from City Clerk Mike Jinks, one mill on the taxlevy next year is scheduled to only bring in $99,499 for the cityand $133,509 for the city school district. Currently, one millbrings in $104,449 for the city and $147,823 for the city schooldistrict.

In the new spending outlook, aldermen plan to pursue a short-termloan to do an estimated $500,000 in street paving and to get$200,000 for the purchase of five new police cars and a loader forthe Solid Waste Department. Those plans are accounting for7.03-mill levy in the debt service portion of the budget.

Maxwell said the flexible portion of the budget is in the pavingarea. He cautioned that the paving would be pursued as long assales tax collections stay above budgeted expectations.

“If the sales tax is good, you can do the paving,” the aldermansaid.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates voted against the budget. In thepast, he has voted against the budget over recreation departmentfunding concerns, but this year indicated a problem with culvertassistance actions by the city.

“It needs to be the same way for everybody across the city,” saidBates later during an extended board discussion about culvert helpand related private versus public property issues.

The new budget includes 5 percent pay raises for all cityemployees, including elected officials. Aldermen rejected a move toexclude themselves from the pay raise plans.

The pay raises will cost approximately $233,000 in the newbudget.

During budget work sessions, aldermen had considered higher payraises for Brookhaven police, but ultimately opted for an acrossthe board approach.

Toward the end of last night’s meeting, Maxwell pointed out thatwith the raises, a starting policeman’s salary will be almost$29,000. He said that would put them at the top of the scale ofpolice pay among comparably sized cities.