The cities of Aberdeen and Amory held their annual budget hearings regarding Fiscal Year ’19-’20 on Sept. 3, and taxpayers in both towns will face increases on what they pay annually on property taxes.
Although the City of Aberdeen, itself, refrained from a tax increase, a request from the Aberdeen School District will cause a slight increase for taxpayers.
“This year, the City of Aberdeen’s assessment will remain the same at 71.47 [mills]. There will be no increase for the city. However, the school district’s levy is 55.75, and that’s a 1.01 mill increase. The total levy for FY ’19-’20 is 127.22,” said city comptroller Karen Crump.
According to city clerk Jackie Benson, the increase will pose an additional $11.45, without homestead factored in, for taxes on a home valued at $60,000.
The city’s Fiscal Year ‘19’-’20 proposed revenue and expenditures total $5,359,885.
The total assessment for the school district is $72,890,989, which is a $3,326,561 increase compared to last year’s assessment. One mill for the school district is $102,856, which is a $3,190 increase from the previous year.
The total assessment for the city is $36,380,788, which is a $561,437 decrease compared to last year. One mill for the city is worth $33,076, which is a decrease of $411 from the previous year.
The total city and school valuation for the upcoming fiscal year is $109,271,777, which is a $2,765,124 increase.
Ward 5 Alderman Jim Buffington said ASD Superintendent Jeff Clay met with the board of aldermen in discussing the city’s position of trying to refrain from raising taxes. It was mentioned during last week’s public hearing state funding for the school has been decreased, and teacher pay raises have been mandated, which have posed financial difficulties.
“Superintendent Clay was very professional and he told us that they’re speaking points out there are a big difference between a need and a want. He asked us to trust in that they’re focusing on the needs, and wants are being pushed aside,” said Ward 2 Alderman Doug Stone.
Crump said the school district’s maintenance fund is capped off as far as mills are concerned, but there is a shortfall note, a three-mill note and a school bond that don’t have caps.
In reviewing the common city’s budget, the budget was balanced on less revenue.
“There were a few increases we had to do this year. For one, our retirement match increased by 1.65 percent. That took place July 1, which was quite a bit when you have 90 employees at that rate. Also, we had an increase in our health insurance of about $40 per month per person,” Crump said. “There are raises granted. The idea is there is a 1.35 percent raise per employee.”
With the 1.65 percent retirement raise included, the figure equates to a three-percent increase.
Capital expenditures for the upcoming budget year include a new tractor and a 16-foot dump trailer in public works, a floor sander for the park and recreation department, new mattresses, a laptop and hoses for the fire department and new radios for the police department.
Additionally, there’s a $30,000 increase compared to last year in the city clerk’s budget for next year’s city election and increases in starting pay for police officers.
“They are trying to make it where the city can compete with these surrounding towns, so the idea is to start our uncertified officers at $13 and once they complete the academy, move it up to $14,” Crump said.
Artisans Marketplace owner Pat Spicer asked what’s being done to attract more businesses to the city.
“A lot of the responsibility for the business climate rests on the citizens of Aberdeen. Me. If I’m shopping in Aberdeen and my family shops here, if we eat out here, if we buy our gas here, then we’re doing everything we can to promote this city and the sales tax revenue to make a climate where businesses want to come in. If people are going to Columbus, Tupelo, West Point and Amory to shop all the time, what can you say about that? Yes, we’re working behind the scenes. We’re doing everything we can to make this a favorable place,” Stone said.
Eighteen percent of the city’s revenues come from sales tax and according to Aberdeen Visitors Bureau Director Tina Robbins, 67 cents of every dollar spent in town stays in town through employee jobs and purchases.
Stone added the board of aldermen has committed to use money from any city-owned property sold will go towards infrastructure.
Crump also discussed the Aberdeen Water Department’s budget during last week’s public hearing, saying there has been a decrease in revenue.
“That may be something we have to address as far as rates because right now, we cannot get grants because our rates are so low,” she said.
According to city clerk Jamie Morgan, Amory’s Fiscal Year 2020 total proposed revenue is $7,854,210.
The total levy for FY ’19-’20 is 46.90 mills, which is a three mill increase from last year for the city. There will be an increase of 2.15 mills for the school district for a combined increase of the city and school from 95.65 mills to 100.80 mills.
The increase will pose an additional $180 in city taxes and $129 for the school district, without homestead factored in, for taxes on a home with an assessed value of $60,000.
“All municipalities and those agencies contributing to Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) will see the first full year of a contribution rate that increased from 15.75 percent to 17.40 percent,” Morgan said. “These percentages, added to the increase in dental and life insurance for our employees, along with needed street projects are the reason for the increase in millage rate.”
Capital expenditures for the upcoming year include payment on three leased police cruisers, one new leased vehicle for the police department, fire protection equipment and equipment for the public works department.
“There is also a $32,000 increase compared to last year in the election budget in the case of a special election,” she said. “Hourly salaries increased for some departments in order to create a competitive pay structure for the city.”
The total assessed value for the school district is $78,111,406, which is a $3,159,228 increase, or a $3,159 per mill increase, compared to last year’s assessment. One school mill is worth $78,111.
The millage rate for the school district is 53.9, equaling $4,210,204.78, which is an increase from the previous year. This figure includes two three mill notes from 2016 and 2019 and two shortfalls from 2017 and 2018.
The total assessment for the city is $62,179,613. One mill equates to $62,180, which is a $2,339,262 increase, or $2,340 per mill increase, compared to last year. The millage rate for the city is set at 46.9, equaling $2,916,224, which is an increase of $289,233 from the previous year.
A portion of this, three mills, goes to the Amory Municipal Library.
NETTLETON – Broken Lives Ministry commemorated the five-year anniversary of its beginning in its original location in Skyline while showing its impact to date through its home in Nettleton through a Sept. 7 grand opening. The faith-based recovery program offers a residence to males recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.
It eventually outgrew its Skyline location and is now centered in the former National Guard Armory alongside Will Robbins Highway. Broken Lives Ministry has served hundreds of men in its five years.
“Nettleton is very fortunate to have two of the greatest things, and that’s Broken Lives Ministry and God’s House of Hope,” said Sgt. Joe Hester of the town’s two recovery facilities. “The people of Nettleton should get on their knees every night and thank the Lord.”
Hester spoke about the building’s history. It was constructed in the early 1980s and began being used by the military in 1983.
Keynote speaker Dr. Chester Harrison of the Prentiss County Baptist Association mixed faith with his military background in the Vietnam War.
“You guys are thanking Uncle Sam for building this building. I am thanking Uncle Sam for giving me all the prayer withal that the disciplines that come with being a soldier,” he said. “God has opened doors for me to go on a lot of missions other than just Vietnam. I’ve been in 12 Muslim countries undercover, smuggling Bibles and teaching Christian believers.
Through Broken Lives Ministries’ average four- to six-month program, participants complete courses on topics such as the Old and New Testament, parenting and anger management, in addition to devotionals and service projects.
The program can last for as long as eight months, and it includes a transitional component.
“We thank the Lord Jesus. When we started it, it was agreed that Jesus would be the center in the curriculum, the administration, the finances. Everything is handled with such integrity and honor,” said Bro. Gary Dawson, who partners with Bro. Shane Scribner to run the ministry.
AMORY – During Sept. 3’s board of aldermen meeting, city clerk Jamie Morgan received permission to authorize city attorney Sam Griffie to prepare a lease agreement for Amory’s upcoming ChiliFest, which will be held Oct. 29.
“It’s gotten really big,” Morgan said after the meeting about the annual event that has become the fall counterpart to the Amory Railroad Festival.
According to Amory Main Street Director Alyssa Benedict, the agreement will spell out in clear language the responsibilities and roles for all parties involved.
“We want to be able to contain everything. We want to have an event that is well organized, family-friendly while keeping everyone safe. It will be all about chili, music and family fun,” she said after the meeting.
Since no citizens were present for a public hearing regarding the upcoming fiscal year budget to offer comment, the resolution was approved.
The aldermen also approved to set an Oct. 1 public hearing date for Electric Rate Ordinance 1721, which will enact the next phase of the transition in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s five-year plan. It will revise rate structures in gradually shifting customer charges from the basis of energy used to a uniform grid access charge.
City utilities manager Mike King described the adjustment as being revenue neutral for the city.
The aldermen approved appointments of Floyd Smith, Debra Harris and James Bost to the election commission.
After an elapsed time of approximately eight minutes, board members voted to adjourn proceedings until Sept. 10 at 9 a.m. when they will meet to give final approval for the budget.
ABERDEEN – During Sept. 3’s board of aldermen meeting, Sheraton Crosby made a plea for volunteers to help at Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, saying the need is extremely urgent. Professionally, Crosby is the director of the Aberdeen School District’s parent center.
“I’ve been volunteering, our students have been volunteering. I just want to solicit all churches, all community leaders, if you’re able to lend a hand. They desperately need your help,” she said.
Crosby said approximately 400 families are provided for from the food distribution each month. To help accommodate, volunteers are needed to work for no charge for distribution days towards the latter part of each month.
Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry Director Lloyd Massey said after the meeting approximately 20 volunteers are needed from 7:30 until 10:30 a.m. the fourth Saturday of each month, and five people are needed from 8 a.m. until noon the Friday before then for senior distribution day.
People interested in volunteering at the food pantry may call Massey at 304-2003 or 813-3500.
In school-related matters, Crosby said the GED is being offered for anyone in need beyond just students, and the school is working on its first yearbook in eight years. She later added there are Aberdeen High School yearbooks for sale for $10 a piece ranging in different years from 1948 to 2011 at the parent center.
In other business, the board approved to authorize an application to pursue grant money to complete the ongoing M&O Depot project.
Aberdeen Historic Preservation Commission Chairperson Kathy Seymour appeared before the board at its last meeting about pursuing funding, and aldermen approved for a grant proposal to be written.
“They have completed a cost estimate and they’re going to ask for what they think it would cost to finish the building. They plan to make an application for $360,000. The city’s portion would be $72,000,” said city clerk Jackie Benson.
Benson said some funding has been set aside for the city’s 2020 budget, but the bulk of the city’s portion, if the grant is awarded, would be from the 2021 budget.
The board approved to advertise for bids for two small city-owned lots alongside James Street. An adjoining property owner expressed interest last year in purchasing them, and the legal options are to advertise for bids or get two appraisals. The price of the appraisals could cost as much as the lots are worth.
During an executive session, aldermen addressed another matter regarding the potential sale of city-owned property at the Prairie Industrial Site, but no action was taken when the meeting went back into open session. Following executive session, the board approved to lease the Aberdeen Sportsplex to Charles Scott for an event Oct. 19.
During public input, Kirk Marcussen, who lives alongside North Thayer Avenue, shared his concerns with a drainage issue and traffic associated with the skating rink in his neighborhood.
Another citizen who lives near the intersection of Highway 25 and Meridian Street asked for police patrol for when the school bus picks up and drops off her child from school, saying traffic doesn’t stop for the bus. She spoke to Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Randle about the issue.