City aldermen adopt $11M budget, 3-2, defend tax increase

City aldermen adopt $11M budget, 3-2, defend tax increase


Aldermen adopted the city’s $11 million 2022 budget that includes a 1-mill tax increase during a special meeting Wednesday afternoon at City Hall.

The budget includes a $1.25-an-hour pay increase for city employees — not including elected officials — that will be funded by the 1-mill tax increase, aldermen said.

The board voted 3-2 in favor of adopting the budget with Ward 1 Alderman Justin Clearman, Ward 3 Alderman James Tatum and Ward 4 Alderman Shaun Seales of Ward 4 in favor of the budget and Alderman-at-Large James Waltman and, Ward 2 Alderman Jim Fulton voting against it.

In the discussion about the budget, Clearman clarified some of his earlier statements on the issue.

“I’m not trying to compete with Carthage, Union or New York City,” Clearman said. “When I say competitive, I’m talking about our first responders, our firefighters, our police department. I want us to have the best when it comes to protecting everybody.”

Clearman said he stood behind his support of the measure.

Fulton said he believes the city’s sales taxes are sufficient to handle the pay raise, but Mayor James A. Young, who does not have a vote on the board, said that sales taxes are a moving target and can fluctuate from month to month.

“We have got to have a solid foundation going to the future,” Young said. “There are things we have got to do in this community and we have just got to stay in the game.”

Seales said he, too, stood by his support for the tax hike.

Seales pointed out during the public meeting that he is the subject of a story on the front page of Wednesday’s The Neshoba Democrat for not having paid his property taxes on time last year.

“I know how people try to use one thing,” Seales said. “My personal tax had nothing to do with this. To everybody, I’ve got all the receipts. I paid all my taxes yesterday morning before our meeting so that’s clear.”

Seales, who also clarified that he ran as an independent candidate for his post, not a Democrat, said raising the millage rate makes sense to him.

“My job is to do my part to make the city productive,” Seales said “I still stand with yes on my vote.”

Tatum said he agreed with Clearman and Seales.

Waltman said he would vote no because he believed the sales tax revenues would cover the pay raises.

“I feel like our sales tax revenue would have been sufficient this first year,” Waltman said. “Once it has been a while and we know where we stand in the city then I think I may at some point see the need for it but for now I say no.”

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