Hattiesburg school tax proposal doesn't sit well with council president

By Mike McDaniel - bio | email | Twitter

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - As hands begin to raise inside Hattiesburg public school classrooms, the school district is looking to raise something else; property tax for Hattiesburg tax payers.

The unanimous approval for an ad valorem tax increase proposal came Tuesday night when the school district approved their 2010-2011 fiscal year budget.

"I don't look at it as a tax, I look at it as an investment," said D. Franklin Brown, who supports the increase.

"I am a working parent and if I have to make a sacrifice for my children, I say I can't put a price of education on my children," said Ron Regan, who also supports the increase.

Although there was support for the proposed 3.25 mill increase, there was opposition as well.

"We're taxed to death," said Brown Miller, who opposed the increase. "The economy that's in our country, around the country, it's also in Hattiesburg, Mississippi."

The most powerful opposition right now could be coming from the city council, which has to approve the tax hike. The increase would take the current 51.75 mills to 55 mills, which translates to about an additional $60 per year on a property assessed at $200,000.

"I wish that they would look at this differently and try to work with the money that they have," said city council president Kim Bradley.

Bradley says now is not the time to levy taxes, especially taxation without representation.

"I really have a problem that you have a board that has the ability to raise taxes and they're not elected. That's the bottom line," said Bradley.

Bradley says should the school district's budget request, including that 3.25 mill increase be presented, he would vote against it.

"I understand that they have short falls, budget numbers are not what they were.  Just like we have in the city, we're dealing with it too, but an option that is not on the table for us is raising taxes," said Bradley.

If the budget doesn't make it pass the council, Bradley says it could get some attention in a court. Either way, Bradley says it's a process needing to be addressed in the state legislature.

Meanwhile, those who would foot the bill are left debating how the increase would affect the general public.

"It's a very small price to pay for us to produce some educated children who can make this place a better place to live," said Brown.

"We have just got to be mindful that when you raise that millage it's going to put somebody worse off than they are today and just don't think that's an option," said Bradley.

Even if the increase is approved and the district gets the more than $16 million they're hoping it will generate, they still expect to have a deficit of more than $300,000. An exact millage won't be put in place until property assessments are complete.

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