CATEGORY: SUP Lee Board of SupervisorsMOULDE

LEE SUPERVISORS SET HEARING ON PROPOSED TAX CHANGES, BUDGET

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

Lee County supervisors will hold a Sept. 11 public hearing on a preliminary 1997-98 budget that would impose small tax hikes on some residents and grant a little tax relief to others.

The hearing is set for 2 p.m. in the boardroom on the first floor of the Lee County Justice Center. Adoption of a final budget and tax rate will follow the hearing.

Although the county will spend less money overall this year due to the elimination of some special funds, it will need more money for general operations and public safety, officials said Friday.

"Total expenses are down ... because of jail construction which won't be done this year," County Administrator Ronnie Bell noted. The new Lee County/Tupelo Adult Jail was finished in June.

Although jail construction costs are no longer a factor, jail operating expenses will add significantly to the public safety budget.

The proposed budget calls for total expenditures of just above $21.1 million for the year beginning Oct. 1. The current year's budget was $24.8 million.

However, general government expenses are forecast to climb to $5.36 million next year from $4.66 million this year while public safety costs, primarily related to the jail, will jump to $5.7 million from $3.6 million.

Conversely, the public works budget will fall from $6 million to $4.3 million due mainly to completion of some grants projects. Capital expenditures, pegged at $4 million this year, will fall to $50,000 next year.

Overall, the amount needed to be raised from county property taxes rose from $8.5 million this year to $8.9 million for the coming year.

To meet the need, county supervisors are expected to levy a 0.85-mill general property tax increase. One mill is $1 on each $1,000 of assessed value.

Though that increase will apply across the county, it will be more than offset by a 1.32-mill reduction in school taxes for landowners in the Lee County School District.

However, most landowners in the Tupelo school district will see their county taxes go up the full 0.85-mill.

Whether city residents will actually pay more taxes depends on the tax levy the City Council sets to fund city schools and city operations. However, both tax rates are expected to remain the same as last year.

The same situation would apply in the other municipalities in the county, though only Baldwyn and Nettleton have separate school districts. Nettleton's school taxes are slated to decline 0.54-mill.

The biggest tax hike, as far as the county is concerned, will occur in the Unity Fire District covering much of east Lee County. The newly created district will begin paying a 4-mill tax on real property levied in all volunteer fire districts in the county.

Natural growth produced about 4 percent more money for the county this year.

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