HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The City of Hattiesburg could see a tax increase to meet public safety needs and avoid higher insurance premiums on homes and businesses.
Mayor Toby Barker is requesting a 3-mill tax increase for the Hub City to help fund a new fire station, police station and adjoining municipal court.
"A 3 mill increase means about $30 to $35 on a $100 thousand house," Barker said. "However, a silver lining is that if you live in the Hattiesburg Public School District area, the amount of millage they needed this year due to reassessment, to fulfill their budget requests actually went down, so the net millage increase between city and school district is only .26."
That .26 equals out to roughly $2 to $3 according to Barker.
"You have to look at where we are in public safety," Barker said. "We're at a crossroads in both our Hattiesburg police department and Hattiesburg fire department."
The increase is aimed to help add a new fire station on U.S. Highway 49, which the city needs to keep its current fire rating, which is a 4.
"In 2011, we kept our class 4 rating, which really keeps down our insurance rates, however, they gave us seven recommendations on what we had to do to keep that class 4 rating going forward," Barker said. "We've done three of those seven things, and we've started on two more, but the thing that we haven't touched yet is the need for a new fire station on Highway 49 north."
The other area the tax increase will help with is the new Hattiesburg Police Department, which will have a municipal court building attached to it.
"Everyone knows about the financial challenges that our city has had, however, public safety is the key in terms of recruiting and retaining residents and protecting our quality of life," said Barker. "We are asking the residents and business owners to pay for those facilities that will provide them protection."
3 MILL-increase on property tax levy effective for fiscal year 2018 ($32.50 on $100,00 home)
- 1 MILL will go to build the new fire station on Highway 49 North.
- 2 MILLS will be set aside for future debt service on the new police station.
"We think that this (fire station) will cost between $2 and $3 million," Barker said. "Couple that with the talk about the new police station we've been talking about this since 2012, we believe we are going to need to really scale back that project to just include the police station and the attached municipal court building."
Barker said the project that jumped up to an estimated roughly $40 million will be cut significantly.
- 10 new patrol cars for Hattiesburg Police Department
- One new pump truck for Hattiesburg Fire Department
- One new Sprint Truck for Hattiesburg Fire Department
"If we are going to see future economic growth, we have to plan and prepare that our fire and police departments can meet the needs brought on by that growth," said Barker. "No one wants to pay more, however, if we don't make these investments, particular on the fire station, if our fire rating slips from a class 4 to a class 5, the amount that our homeowners and businesses would pay in terms of insurance rates would go up."
Total FY 2018 Budget- $125,462,269
General Fund- $56.9 million
Special Fund Reserve- $20.2 million
Debt Service- $3.5 million
Water & Sewer- $44.1 million
Barker will make the proposal to the City Council Thursday, Sept. 7th at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. The meeting is open to the public and anyone is welcome to attend.