Bay eyes millage increase
By Geoff Belcher
Aug 15, 2014, 22:01
The Bay St. Louis City Council will likely begin advertising next week for a public hearing to raise the city's millage rate.
"We need to put five mils right there in the reserve fund," Ward One Councilman Doug Seal said Thursday during the council's second budget workshop meeting of the week. "We've got to start adding it somehow."
Two representatives from the independent auditing firm Wright, Ward, Hatten & Guel last month took the council to task for the city's overall cash shortage and lack of an adequate reserve fund.
In its official report, made public Aug. 1, the firm found "The city of Bay St. Louis offers citizens a high level of municipal services and the second lowest property tax levy in the state of Mississippi. With no expected changes to revenue, a cash reserve cannot be generated and the current level of services cannot be maintained."
Currently, the city of Bay St. Louis charges 15.09 mills for city services and 2.66 mills for the county library system.
"You can't keep running on a negative balance," Seal said. He suggested that the council should consider raising the rate by eight mils.
"Eight mils would be $200 on a $100,000 house," Seal said.
"Creating taxes is the easy way," Ward Five Councilman Joey Boudin said. Over the past several workshops, Boudin has lobbied the council to raise money through budget cuts and alternative revenue streams, such as charging rent on the old city council annex building which currently houses the Hancock Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber leases the building, which Boudin said appraised for $370,000, for a dollar per year.
"If we're going to raise millage, we definitely need to cut somewhere," Ward Four Councilman Bobby Compretta said Thursday.
Since the council was in a workshop meeting Thursday, it could not legally vote to set and advertise the public hearing the state requires before raising millage.
The council said it would likely do that at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday and conduct the hearing before the end of August.
The council must adopt the 2014-15 fiscal year budget by Sept. 15.