The Bay St. Louis City Council on Tuesday hosted a public hearing on the proposed budget and tax levies for the next fiscal year.

For the current fiscal year, the city is operating with total projected budget revenue of $18,439,344. $3,765,599 of that money is obtained -- or about 20.42 percent -- is obtained through ad valorem (i.e., real estate or property) taxes.

For FY20, the proposed budget has a total projected revenue of $20,301,054. Of that amount, $3,811,483 -- or 18.77 percent -- is proposed to be raised through an ad valorem tax levy.

"The decision to not increase the ad valorem tax millage rate for FYE 2020 above the current year's ad valorem tax millage rate means you will not pay more in ad valorem taxes on your home, automobile tag, utilities, business fixtures and equipment and rental real property, unless the assessed value of your property has increased for FYE 2020," city officials said.

After the public hearing -- during which no one from the public spoke -- councilmen voted to fix the tax levies for the next fiscal year at 76.26 mills.

City comptroller Sissy Gonzales told Ward 3 Councilman Jeff Reed that the current approximate amount for one mill is $130,300.

Taxpayers should be aware that the city itself only gets about a third of that millage, Councilman-at-large Gary Knoblock said.

"When you pay your bill, you pay three separate entities," Knoblock said, "the city, the county and the schools."

The total millage will be 76.26 mills, including 24.74 mills for the city's general fund; .77 mills for the debt service fund; 1.24 mills for the city-county public library fund; and 47.51 mills for the school district.

Councilmen voted 7-0 to approve the millage rate.

In other action Tuesday:

• The council gave preliminary plat approval to the BSL Porches subdivision at 928 South Beach Blvd.

The developer seeks to modify two parches of land on 17 acres between Beach Blvd. and Third Street into 34 new parches. The property is zoned R-1, Single Family; R-2, Two Family; and R-4, Beach Front District.

The Bay St. Louis Planning & Zoning Commission voted last week to recommend the council approve the preliminary plat.

However, on Tuesday, Jim MacPhaille -- a developer himself who owns the adjacent property -- urged the council to deny the plat approval.

MacPhaille said the existing proposal does not meet the city's codes and requirements for development.

Attorney Gary Yarborough, representing MacPhaille, told councilman that the project would require the filling of wetlands and changing the contours and watershed on the property, but does not address either mitigation or stormwater or drainage He said the plan would also require removing hundreds of protected live oaks and magnolias on the property; and would require a road adjacent to MacPhaille's property without the proper buffer which the city's codes require.

Attorney Ronnie Artigues and engineer Jason Chiniche, representing the developer, told councilman that the current plan is merely preliminary, and the city must approve it before the developer can move ahead. Chiniche is also the city's engineer.

"It's a preliminary plat approval," Artigues said. "We cannot proceed with development and go to the next step without preliminary approval."

Artigues said the developers have "experts on board" who will move ahead on the drainage plan and a tree survey after the preliminary approval.

"I've heard that before and it happened recently," Ward 1 Councilman Doug Seal said. "The developer who was supposed to protect the property … did not do what he was supposed to do."

Seal also pointed out there was not green space or public areas included in the current proposal.

The council voted 7-0 to give preliminary plat approval, stressing that the developer must address all concerns before receiving final approval.

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