Raising taxes will make city more competitive, alderman Clearman insists
Raising taxes will make Philadelphia more competitive with other surrounding cities, Ward 1 Alderman Justin Clearman said Wednesday evening during a public hearing on a proposed tax hike.
“I just believe for us being in a competitive marketplace with the rest of the towns that are within a 50-mile radius of here, that we need to step it up a little bit,” Clearman said of a proposed 1-mill tax increase during a Wednesday evening public hearing on the city’s proposed $11 million 2021-2022 Fiscal Year budget.
City leaders have budgeted 20 mills this fiscal year, which is a 1-mill increase. That means ad valorem taxes will increase and city leaders have said the millage increase will help fund pay raises for city employees.
No citizens other than two reporters for The Neshoba Democrat turned for the 5 p.m. hearing at City Hall.
Of the $10,960,350 in total revenue, $1,530,000 will come from ad valorem taxes, an increase of $366,800 when compared to the current budget.
The tax increase, Clearman said, is about more than just pay raises for city employees.
“I feel like it leverages ourselves to be more marketable as a city,” Clearman said of the tax increase proposal. “Everybody in this town complains about not having this, or this, or this. There are reasons we don’t have them….. If the citizens want what the citizens keep coming to us saying they want to have then they need to just like we are going to have to as citizens, as taxpayers, invest in the city a little bit.”
Clearman, a Republican, said he did not like the way The Neshoba Democrat published a top-of -the-front-page story on the proposed tax increase in Wednesday’s edition saying the tax increase is about more than just pay raises for city employees.
Clearman, however, did not respond to a message from the Democrat Tuesday seeking input on the budget proposal for Wednesday’s newspaper.
“I didn’t like the way it was portrayed in the Democrat either as the top story,” Clearman said. “I think that was, personally, I thought that was kind of bogus but that is just me. That is going to do a whole lot more than put money in the city’s pockets. It is a long term strategic move you have got to make if we are going to compete with Unions and Carthages and everything else with a fully staffed fire department, police staff, police department — the best in the state. To keep them here we have got to get them paid. It is not just to give city workers a raise.”
Not all board members favor the 1-mill proposed budget request that passed on a 3-2 vote with Alderman-At-Large James Waltman and Ward 2 Alderman Jim Fulton voting against it.
“I voted against it,” Waltman said. “I am new on the board and certainly after looking at the finances, I thought we would be OK without it. Especially being our first order of business. I didn’t want it to be raising taxes. My understanding is that we are raising it by 1 mill and the school board is reducing it by half a mill, So what we are going to wind up with is a half mill. Really, the citizens won’t get but a half a mill. Looking at the budget, I thought we would be OK without it but I am one vote.”
Fulton said he believed the revenue from last year was strong enough not to have needed the millage increase.
“We finished strong with our revenues and sales tax,” Fulton said. “I don’t know if it will continue next year. I hope it does. I was fine with what we had to work with. But I am one vote and one person.”
Ward 4 Alderman Shaun Seales said he believed the millage increase is important for the city’s future.
“(I was in favor) to give the city a facelift and to get closer to modern times,” Seales said. “I will explain to my Ward 4 constituents. About the millage, Justin did some research and its (the ad valorem tax levy) isn’t close to other cities our size. Do we want to raise taxes on anybody, no. But is it necessary, yes. As I told my constituents, we have to get up to modern times. We can always take it back down. But I think it is the thing to do.”
City officials told the Democrat they have not completed an audit since 2017 but are working on Fiscal Year 2019-2020.