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Adams: Budget contains no city millage hike

September 8, 2012

By NATHAN GREGORY
sdnreporter@yahoo.com

The city of Starkville’s proposed 2012-13 fiscal year budget has an anticipated revenue of $16,841,982, which reflects budget revenues being $12,415 short of the projected $16,889,397 2012 budget but $450,101 more than the initial anticipated 2012 budget as it was approved last year.

Ad valorem taxes will account for $3,922,500, or 23.3 percent of the budget — a $10,000 (or one-tenth of a percent) increase from the 2011-12 ad valorem amount of $3,912,500.

Starkville Director of Finance Taylor Adams said this year’s budget, like last year’s, is fiscally conservative.

“(The slight ad valorem increase) really is a positive thing because if you think about it not only is it a bigger number, it’s a bigger percentage of our revenue, which means all of our revenue line items were at least neutral or down. We feel like we’ve put together a very conservative budget and the ad valorem rates confirm that for us,” Adams said. “We’re using $350,000 of our general fund balance. In government, you never budget for a surplus anyway. It’s generally considered bad policy in government to budget for a surplus because what that means is you’re taking more from the people than you have to. We’re taking our cash position with this budget down to $628,000. We’re entering the year at $975,000. We feel the city will still be able to operate and deliver service at that $628,000, but we’re also understanding that this is an extraordinary budget circumstance.”

The budget does not involve any millage increase. The millage rate for Starkville residents imposed by the city is 20 — less than 15 percent of the total millage obligation of 133.36. The Oktibbeha County School District millage rate is 50.4, while the Starkville School District rate is 62.96.

In comparison to peer cities, Starkville’s millage rate is less than half of Meridian’s (50.84), Hattiesburg’s (46.92) and Southaven’s (43.73), according to statistics compiled for a budget presentation at Tuesday’s board of aldermen meeting.

The city of Columbus has a rate of 37.63. West Point’s is slightly smaller at 36.81. According to the report, Tupelo and Oxford have rates of 32.47 and 27.25, respectively.

“If you look at the cities in northeast Mississippi, Eupora is the only city that is even remotely close to us at 24 (mills), but their county millage is 113.71, and that does not count their city school district,” Adams said. “From a taxation standpoint, we operate on substantially less as a municipality than any of our peers do.”

Adams said sales tax collection will increase 2.75 percent for fiscal year 2012-13 as a result of the board’s commitment to fund a new municipal complex.

“Starkville averages 4.3 (percent sales tax collection) a year over the last 10 years. We’ll finish this year somewhere around 6 percent, but we only budgeted 2.75 sales tax growth because that’s all that’s required to meet the resolution they signed on that building,” Adams said.
Compared to the 2011-12 projections, which list Starkville Police Department’s budget at $3,492,389, the 2012-13 proposed document lists SPD’s budget at $3,644,140. Starkville Fire Department’s budget in the 2011-12 projections is $3,331,233 — $89,994 less than 2012-13’s $3,421,227.

The budget for the water and sewer departments totals $9,455,409 for the proposed 2012-13 budget — $623,182 more than the $8,832,227 set aside in the 2011-12 budget.

The projected ending fund balance for 2012-13 is $628,685.
Adams said despite the budget increases, all city departments are operating on the same if not less money than they had last year.

“Those increases will relate to mandated personnel increases at the state level. Our contribution to the state retirement system went up so we had to make a light increase both in last year’s budget when that happened but also carry that forward to this budget,” he said. “Our health care costs are up 8 percent from last year. When you’re looking across the board we spend more than $1 million a year providing health insurance for our employees. So an 8 percent increase there nets out … at $1.516 million this year for employee health care.”

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