By STEVEN NALLEY
The Starkville Board of Aldermen will hold a special meeting Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to consider adopting a master plan for improved municipal facilities and holding an election for an $8,455,000 bond issue to pay for the plan’s first phase, construction of a new police department.
The board tabled these measures at its Aug. 2 meeting when questions arose about the structure of the planned tax increases.
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas, who gave the presentation on the master plan Aug. 2, said a mathematical error caused the confusion and has been corrected for the special meeting.
“This was an oversight of mine and caused undue confusion,” Dumas said. “For that, I am very sorry and hope that with the new table and figures we can clarify any issues. We needed to get all of our calculations in order prior to releasing and approving such a pivotal document related to the future improvements of the city. We feel like we have those corrected, and we look forward to moving forward on the project (Tuesday).”
Dumas’s presentation on Aug. 2 showed a mill increase of 3.49 mills to pay for the project’s $8,455,000 first phase. It also showed a further increase of 2.46 mills to pay for the second phase, the improvements to City Hall, estimated at $5,955,000.
A mill is a property tax, calculated as $1 of annual taxes for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.
To show the millage increases’ impact on tax payments, Dumas included tables in the presentation that showed how much annual taxes would increase for homes, which are assessed at a 10 percent rate.
Dumas provided a breakdown of annual taxes for homes of varying values into monthly and daily prices. For instance, he said, the mill increase for the first phase would leave owners of $300,000 homes paying $104.70 more in property taxes per year, $8.73 more per month, and 28 cents per day.
Dumas’s table for phase two showed a tax increase of $180.30 for owners of $300,000 homes, despite phase two’s lower cost and lower millage rate. Dumas said his calculations were accurate for phase one, but not for phase two.
“What went awry was the fact that in the column heading that was used to calculate the millage impacts of a total millage of 25.95,” Dumas said. “We should have been using a factor of .02595, but we somehow failed to include the first five and used the factor of .0295, thus showing impacts of 29.5 mills versus the calculations of 25.95 mills. Simple error, big mistake.”
After Dumas made several efforts to clarify the math behind these millages on Aug. 2, Mayor Parker Wiseman suggested the measure be tabled, and after some discussion, Dumas agreed, along with the rest of the board.
“Tomorrow’s special called meeting will allow us to clarify the numbers, talk about the details and take a vote,” Dumas said. “We are currently producing a website that will include pertinent information regarding the master plan. This will include tax implications, etc.”
Despite the problems with the phase two calculations, Dumas said it is important for citizens and the board to remember that the cost of phase two and all figures derived from it are still only estimates. The planned bond issue vote, he said, only deals with phase one, and discussion of how to fund phase two will be held at a later date, and may not require a bond issue.
“It should be strongly noted that we are not asking or even discussing the timing or method of payment of phase two,” Dumas said. “We know the estimated cost, and the master plan simply states the details for acceptance as a comprehensive master plan, not an actionable item of acceptance for the millage increase.”