City tax millage rate remains unchanged 8/30/2013

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 30, 2013

City tax millage rate remains unchanged

By John Howell
Batesville city officials adopted an ad valorem tax millage rate of 28.05 mills for fiscal 2014 following a public hearing Tuesday where no one showed up.

The millage rate has remained unchanged since 2000. It means that city ad valorem taxes for real and personal property will not change unless assessed valuation has risen. State-mandated reappraisal conducted this year will likely have raised the assessed valuation of some property in the city and county, officials of the Panola County Tax Assessor’s office have said.

Ad valorem taxes — levied on land, structures, equipment and certain personal property like vehicles — will constitute 15.28 percent of the city’s anticipated revenue or almost $3 million, according to Crawford’s projections.

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Attracts little interest
The budget hearing is an annual event scheduled to comply with state law but was little noticed by anyone except the elected officials, CPA Bill Crawford, City Clerk Susan Berryhill, assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell, Deputy Police Chief Don Province and The Panolian. Three aldermen — Teddy Morrow, Eddie Nabors and Bill Dugger — attended, creating the quorum needed to approve the millage rate. Aldermen Ted Stewart was on his way back to Batesville from an out-of-town construction job, the mayor said. Alderman Stan Harrison joined the meeting by phone shortly after the millage had been approved. Harrison had anticipated his absence and attorney Mitchell had given public notice that would have allowed Harrison to have cast his vote by phone had it been needed for the necessary quorum.

Crawford presented a budget that projects net receipts of $21 million and net disbursements of $26 million. The difference is sufficiently covered by an estimated beginning cash and investment balance of $10.6 million and anticipates an ending cash balance on Sept. 30, 2014 fiscal year at $5.5 million.

Dollars and percents
The budget that will be officially adopted at the September 3 meeting shows 26.43 percent or $7.1 million of 2014 expenses alloted to the water and sewer department. Other major department expenses by percent and amount, with 2013 amounts in parenthesis, include police, 18.83 percent, $4.576 million ($4.1 million); street maintenance 14.28 percent, $3.47 million ($3.15 million); gas, 13.29 percent, $3.23 million ($3.6 million); and fire department, 9.5 percent, $2.3 million, ($2.31 million).

Other departments — library, parks and recreation, public health and sanitation, city court, city code, and general — plus debt service account for 17.68 percent of city expenses for 2014.
On the revenue side— where the money is expected to come from — Crawford presented figures that showed the gas department as raising the most revenue for the city 19.40 percent, followed by water and sewer, 18.95 percent; sales tax reimbursement from the state, 16.69 percent; ad valorem, 15.28 percent; grants, 7.45 percent; debt proceeds, 6.37 percent; tourism tax, 5.40 percent; plus a host of funds from other sources from road taxes (2.37 percent) to court fines and bonds (.01 percent), none of which account individually for more than five percent of city revenue.

Water revenue concern
The disparity of water department expense and revenue prompted most of the conversation during the short meeting.

“Water rates are falling behind,” Mayor Jerry Autrey said. He said that he worried that there are no funds put aside from water revenue for capital projects like a new water well or water tank.
“You’re going to have to build up a little bit of a surplus,” CPA Crawford said.

The mayor said he favored a policy of incremental increases each year instead of less frequent, larger increases, but the Public Service Commission has objected when the city attempted smaller annual increases. The Public Service Commission has jurisdiction only over water service the city provides outside municipal limits. Batesville serves 382 water customers outside its corporate limits.

“It seems like we get into trouble when we service outside the city,” Alderman Dugger said.
“That’s the whole problem,” the attorney said.