| By Jason C. Mattox
Thursday night, after nearly one month of meetings, leaders in the City of Sardis finally adopted the operating budget for 2006-07.
The total budget including the city’s general fund and water fund will be $1.869 million.
During the public hearing on the ad valorem tax increase, no one was present to speak in opposition.
"To those of you here, let me explain something to you," Mayor Alvis "Rusty" Dye said. "We had a 24 percent increase in utilities over the past year, and we don’t know what it might be next year.
"The increase on just running the street lights jumped $30,000 this year," he added.
Dye said the city expects higher utility bills next year.
"We have already received a notice from Centerpoint telling us natural gas prices are going to increase 25 percent next year," he said. "That’s going to have an impact on your electricity too."
Dye also explained that if the city had not received money from FEMA for work they did for Hurricane Katrina victims and back taxes from the county, the city would have been in really bad shape.
"Without the money from FEMA and the back taxes we would have been looking at a deficit of $100,000," he said.
"Really and truly none of us wanted to see taxes go up, but there was no way around it this year," Alderman-at-Large Roy Scallorn added.
The city’s new millage rate was set at 34.19.
A property valued at $68,000 will see taxes increase $23 next year.
The present taxes for 2005-2006 would be $229. With the new rate, the taxes will be $252.
Residents in the city are also well aware that water rates will be increased during the current budget year, but they should also be prepared for increases until the end of the administration term.
Aldermen voted last night to set the new water rate at $14.55 for a minimum bill for water and sewer, and each additional $1,000 gallons will be $4. In addition, aldermen voted to increase water rates three percent each year until the end of the term.
"We don’t need to set anything that the future boards have to do," Scallorn said. "But this is something we need to do to keep the rates in line. We can always revisit them."
City Clerk Odessa Johnson said the increase in water will net the city a $30,000 cushion.
"This is more of an increase than we need to balance the budget," she said.
Scallorn reminded aldermen that they needed money in reserve to pay for the painting of the city’s water tanks and to replace any wells if needed.
"We never really know when we might have an emergency come up," he said. "And we don’t need to be left with nothing to pay for it."