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Lynn Spruill: Yes, the city is in the county


Lynn Spruill



When I was a city employee it was always extremely frustrating to hear a resident complain about the high taxes that citizens of Starkville paid. I would jump to the defense of the city by asking if they understood that the taxes paid to Starkville were proportionally minimal compared to the taxes paid to the county and dwarfed yet again by the taxes paid to the school district. The answer was usually no they just mentally lumped them all together as being Starkville taxes. 


That frequent discussion highlights how quickly the relationship between the city and the county gets conflated. This fundamental lack of understanding was once again exposed when there was a recent comment to a Dispatch article on the predicament Alderman Henry Vaughn found himself in when he was arrested by the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's department. Whatever the motivation, the "concerned citizen" accused the sheriff's department of being out of their jurisdiction by arresting the alderman within the city limits of Starkville.  


The sheriff's department for a county exercises jurisdiction over the entire county. It is no different from the taxes. Each county imposes taxes on all its residents which include the citizens of Columbus in Lowndes County and the citizens of Starkville in Oktibbeha County. 


Both Columbus and Starkville serve as the seats of their respective counties, but that in no way immunizes them from the jurisdiction of the various roles the county plays impacting the cities located within each. All of the various services such as tax assessor collector, jail facilities, land records and courts are part of what you pay into the county coffers to receive. 


While your checkbook may not care which entity is emptying it, it is a distinction with a significant difference if you believe in taxation with representation. One of the attitudes from elected county supervisors in Oktibbeha County is that they don't get elected by the residents of the municipality, they get their marching orders from those outside the incorporated municipality and that is the constituency to whom they feel obligated.  


Not wishing to cast aspersions on their motivations, my guess is they believe that the residents within the city are already adequately represented and therefore don't need any additional attention from them. While there may be some truth to there being representation for certain aspects of city living, all of the services provided through county tax dollars are also provided to and paid for by city residents. As a general rule, the county gets most of its revenue from the concentration of improved and valuable real estate in the primary city within its borders, in this case, Starkville.  


Which leads me to a question: Why is it Starkville doesn't have any representation on the county board of supervisors from within the city limits? There are 2 stunning facts for our county. First I couldn't find anyone in recent history who remembers ever having someone from within the city serving on the board of supervisors and apparently there has never been a female who has been elected as a Supervisor. I know that there are qualified candidates, male and female, living within the city limits. I can't imagine that among the concentration of the voters in the county within the city limits there isn't anyone interested in running for a supervisor's seat. By contrast, Lowndes County has two members of the board of supervisors who live in the city limits of Columbus with the remaining three living out in the county. That ratio sounds about right. 


Let's be clear, if you live in the Starkville city limits you have every right and responsibility to vote in the county election for the position of supervisor that represents the district within the county in which you reside. You live in Oktibbeha County, but you still get to vote for governor or senator or representative for the Mississippi. You may live in Starkville, but you still get to vote in the election for a supervisor for the county in the district in which you live.  


Call me an optimist, but I believe it is time for a resident -- even better a female resident -- of Starkville to run for Oktibbeha County supervisor, and it is certainly time we in Starkville voted for a candidate who has strong ties to the city as well as the county.



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