PETAL, MS (WDAM) - The City of Petal is describing the details of its annexation plan in attempt to dispel rumors and resident concerns.
"People who are opposing it, they're trying to scare folks about astronomical taxes, about losing their way of life, and that's simply not the case," Petal Mayor Hal Marx said.
Marx said he has been fielding questions from potential new residents in rural areas about city development.
"People who live in the areas that are sort of, what I would consider, more rural areas, they're concerned about their country way of life," he said. "We hear that a lot. People who like to hunt, like to go out and shoot their guns in their backyards, and I've tried to tell them that they're going to be allowed to do that. We're committed to being as least disruptive to their lifestyle as possible."
Another major concern for county residents is how much taxes will increase if they are annexed.
"People have the misconception that their taxes are going to triple or double," Marx said. "Your taxes should not triple or double."
Marx said taxes will increase, but not as much as people seem to think. He said Petal has a millage rate of about 46, so a Forrest County homeowner with a $100,000 house would see a tax increase of about $460 dollars. Marx said the best way to determine how much a specific homeowner's taxes would increase is to call the Forrest County Tax Assessor's office or use its online calculator.
Petal is planning to annex 710 residents in the plan, and Marx said he thinks residents are essential for future growth.
"We want to make sure people understand that we want to help that whole community, not just get revenue from the businesses," he said. "We want to provide some service for those citizens there that they don't have right now."
Marx said the city is prepared to provide services to those residents immediately after they are annexed.
"Another things that's a misconception is that we're not going to be able to provide the services to people," he said. "We can provide services to all of these areas the day it's approved. You will immediately be getting police and fire protection, zoning, code enforcement, garbage disposal, all of the things the city provides for people on day one. So there's not going to be a delay in that. The only thing that will take awhile to get in some areas is sewer service, but you don't pay for that until you're actually hooked up to it. So you will not be charged for something That you're not getting.
Marx said the city isn't planning to change any utility districts in this annexation.
"They will still be in the same water districts that they are now," he said.
School district taxes and school district lines are also staying the same.
"If you're not already in the Petal School District paying school taxes, you won't be," Marx said. "If you live on the other side of the river in what's now the Forrest County School District, you will still be in the Forrest County School District. You will pay their school taxes. You will not be paying school taxes for Petal, and your kids will not have to go to Petal Schools."
The next step for Petal is filing the annexation plan in Forrest County Chancery Court and determining if the city of Hattiesburg plans to oppose Petal's annexation.
"The city of Hattiesburg will be served a notice that we are annexing an area along the Evelyn Gandy," Marx said. "I do know from conversations, I think the city of Hattiesburg might want to oppose that. We will be glad to defend our right to grow in that direction. We feel like that's our natural growth area. We feel like all the growth that's happened along the Evelyn Gandy on that side of the river is because of its proximation to Petal, not because of its proximation to Hattiesburg. So we feel confident that we'll win that argument if Hattiesburg does get involved. I would hope they don't get involved. We don't intend to get involved in their growth. We're happy to see them grow and thrive. We would like to do the same, and be left alone to do that."