| By Jason C. Mattox
Citing a "dumb move" in past years, city officials in Sardis are contemplating a tax increase as they begin working on a budget for fiscal year 2007.
The biggest topic of discussion at the August 8, budget meeting was an increase in ad valorem taxes.
"We are still nearly four mills lower than 1989," said City Clerk Odessa Johnson, citing the relatively low tax rate in the city.
Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye told his colleagues the city should never have lowered the tax rate in ?89.
"That was a dumb move to lower the tax rate then," he said. "Now we will have to raise taxes to get somewhere near where we were over 15 years ago."
Johnson told the Mayor and Board of Aldermen there would be additional revenues for the upcoming budget including $48,000 in rent and royalties from Steelmatic, Inc., a potential 10-percent tax increase, and $49,000 in contractual services.
"By having Steelmatic in the old Air Kontrol Building, you won’t be responsible for the full amount of the payment," Johnson said.
The city will still be responsible for $22,000 of the $70,000 total payment.
The 10 percent tax increase would generate $30,000 in revenue for the city.
On the upcoming expenses for the new budget year, the city is responsible for an additional $92,000 in police salaries.
"Our COPS grant has expired and we are responsible for those salaries," Dye said. "We are constantly looking for other grants, and when we can reapply for the COPS grant."
The COPS Universal Hiring Program is a federal program that provides up to 75 percent of the total cost of salary and benefits of each new officer over a period of three years. State or local funds pick up the remaining 25 percent.
In addition to the police salaries, an increase in fuel costs must also be budgeted.
"We don’t know how much the cost of fuel will go up during the next year, but we need to prepare for it as best we can," Dye said.
Johnson also asked city leaders to consider what they wanted to do about temporary employees Billy Smith and Robert Earl Wilkie.
Smith and Wilkie are both retired city employees who work on a temporary basis. Smith has been working with public works director Billy Bright while Wilkie has been serving as the city’s building inspector.
"We have other employees who can do these jobs now, and you need to decide if you want to keep them around or not," she said.
No final decisions were made, but a second meeting to discuss the budget has been scheduled for Tuesday, August 15 at 5 p.m.