Southaven property taxpayers can expect to pay a little bit more during the next 12 months as a result of a vote taken during a special meeting Tuesday evening at City Hall.
The majority of the Board of Aldermen that approved the 3.05 millage increase expect the additional money will fund more police protection while maintaining a street budget of about $6..4 million.
Meanwhile, one alderman feels the city has enough money to do what it needs to do without the millage increase.
It was Alderman Charlie Hoots who countered a motion to approve the city budget that had the millage increase with a motion of his own.
Hoots moved that the budget presented for approval be reconsidered, saying he was supporting another budget option that would have no millage increase.
“The more I had contact with folks in my area, they were just not comfortable with the tax increase,” Hoots said. “I really believe that our city is in better shape now than any other city in the county and I think our sales tax revenues coming in above budget will provide plenty of money to hire the four extra police officers plus added money into our street paving fund.”
The initial motion to adopt the budget came from Alderman Raymond Flores and seconded by Alderman John David Wheeler.
Hoots’ reconsideration motion was seconded by Alderman William Jerome, but they were the only ones to vote in favor of it when it came time for the roll call vote.
When Flores’ motion to adopt the budget then came up, Hoots became the only opposing vote in a 6-1 result, as Jerome joined the other five aldermen in favor.
With the budget that has been adopted to become effective Oct. 1, property taxpayers will see a 3.05 mill increase in the city’s part of their tax bill. The school district and county millage remain the same.
The city’s part of the tax bill now becomes 46.78 mills, an average increase of $72.45 annually. The age 65-plus exemption would equal a $49.57 increase and for the lowest-value homes, the age 65-plus increase becomes $19.82.
The proposal Hoots supported would have reduced street resurfacing to $4.8 million in the next fiscal year, would have given police and fire a four-percent pay raise, and paid for six new police positions with no millage hike.
What was passed increases the number of police additions from six to 10 and sets the street resurfacing budget at $6.4 million. The pay increases for police and fire of four percent remain in the adopted budget, along with other key changes in both proposals.
The millage increase is the first for the city in 18 years, according to Mayor Darren Musselwhite, who added other county cities have had to raise millage in recent years since he’s been in office.
At the same time, Musselwhite defends the action, saying the city is facing different challenges now than in the past.
“We can’t afford to cut police, we’ve got to fund the Close the Door Operation and there’s no way to do that without either cutting police or cutting streets,” Musselwhite said. “Both of them are needed, so this was the financially responsible thing to do.”
Operation Close the Door is the concerted effort recently started to add more police presence near the state line to thwart spillover crime from Memphis coming into the city. Musselwhite noted the police budget has increased 60 percent in the last four years.
“I feel good about this budget,” Musselwhite said. “It funds critical needs for the future of the city. We face different challenges from a law enforcement perspective than we have had in my mayoral career. It’s different now than it was two years ago and we have to pay attention to that.”