Tax cut among options city considering for 2015 budget
Wednesday, August 13, 2014 1:00 AM
Lowering the city's millage rate is among the numerous options being considered by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen as they continue to work to compile a Fiscal Year 2015 budget.
A hearing for public comment on the proposal budget will be Tuesday, Aug 19 at 5 p.m. inside city hall.
Aldermen have projected a $172,750 surplus in the general fund when FY 2014 ends on Sept. 30.
Since late July, the mayor and board have been reviewing the "wish lists" of city department heads for the new year, which, if granted, would result in a proposed $93,783 shortfall in the general fund at the current millage rate and without any other adjustments.
However, Ward 1 Alderman Josh Gamblin presented the board with one budget proposal last week that would reduce the millage rate by two and ward off a shortfall for FY 2015, while funding most of the "wish lists."
His proposal included paying off the city's TIF loan and shifting those annual payments and any excess in the city's TIF account to the city's general fund.
The TIF district, which includes Lowe's and other nearby developments, generates about $471,500 in sales tax annually which is used to retire the TIF loan.
Currently, the city has paid off half of the TIF loan and has approximately $1.4 million in savings for the remainder.
It would take that and about $950,000 more from the city to pay off the TIF, City Clerk James Johnson said, noting that the additional monies could come from the city's reserves. The county would have to agree to pay its share of the TIF loan, aldermen said, before the debt could be retired.
The county diverts the county's ad valorem taxes on the Lowe's property to the TIF loan.
The city pays about $380,000 annually on the TIF loan, which was secured to fund park improvements and infrastructure improvements on Mississippi 16 prior to the Lowe's development.
If the city decided to pay off the TIF early, it would save about $300,000 in interest over the next six years, Johnson said.
During FY 2014, the board voted 3-2 to increase the city's mills from 10 to 20 to fund the $7.4 million FY 2014 general fund budget and to close a more than $500,000 shortfall for fiscal 2013, aldermen said at the time.
Gamblin's FY 2015 budget proposal, which sparked little discussion from aldermen, includes $50,000 for business and industry recruitment.
"I think things are starting to move and we need to get a group together and go after business and industry in an aggressive way," he said.
His proposal also included $47,500 to fund construction of what he said was a much needed dog kennel for the city's Animal Control Department.
His proposal also grants an additional $25,000 for the Police Department for new computer software; $2,000 each for Main Street, the Arts Council and the historical museum; $7,340 for parks and recreation; $1,000 for the Soil and Water Conservation Service; $1,000 for the Boys and Girls Club; $4,535 for the public library; $10,000 for city beautification; $2,000 for an annual salary increase for the city attorney; and $10,000 for increased costs the jail to house city prisoners.
Gamblin's proposal does not include any funds for paving streets, which would mark the seventh consecutive year the city has not funded any paving.
Police Chief Grant Myers is asking the board to increase his budget from $1,708,406 to $1,899,911, citing a need for two additional officers and new cars, among other items.
Aldermen discussed purchasing up to six new vehicles for the PD, debating whether to purchase two and pay for them or up to six under a lease/purchase agreement.
Fire Chief Pierce Clark asked that the Fire Department's budget be increased from $1,502,645 to $1,565,734 to fund new turnout gear and other needed items.
Rusty Holley asked that the Street Department budget be increased from $941,153 to $1,127,720 to help fund a new backhoe and pickup truck.
Municipal Court Clerk Denise Refre asked that the court budget be increased from $314,240 to $336,234.
She cited a need for an additional clerk.
Her requests also included a $1,300 annual raise for Municipal Judge Steve Cumberland.
The mayor and aldermen were to continue discussions on the FY 2015 budget Tuesday night.
FY 2015 starts Oct. 1.