The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors could potentially raise taxes next fiscal year to generate revenue for a capital improvement fund.
Lynn Norris of Madison-based Government Consultants presented the board with various scenarios for issuing bonds and creating a fund for future county projects at a work session Wednesday. In order for the county to build funds, millage must be transferred or increased.
“What we’re trying to do is develop a long-term capital improvement plan,” Norris said. “What you want to achieve is a stable millage that will support bonds.”
Mills are used to calculate property taxes. For example, a person who owns a $100,000 home without a homestead exemption pays $10 in taxes per mill.
While the 2021 millage rates have not been set due to assessment numbers not being received yet, for the 2020 fiscal year, the millage for the county was set at 58.59. County Administrator Delois Farmer said she hopes to receive this year’s assessment values any day.
The county will need to issue bonds to bring in revenue for the capital improvement fund. Three years ago, the board approved a 3-mill increase to go toward a four-year plan for bonds for capital improvements. This would also be a four-year plan.
“A bond is the most effective way to create capital improvements,” Norris said.
Norris advised the supervisors to find projects they would like to see executed over the next few years and that would determine how much the county should bond, thus establishing how the county wants to build the capital improvement fund. He said the millage will drive what the county can do.
To create this plan, Norris presented a proposal where 2 mills could be transferred from one fund to the capital improvement fund to generate $10 million. Farmer said she is confident one mill could come from general operations but the board would have to determine where the other mill would come from.
“Moving mills could start creating this capital improvement fund,” District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said. “If we move mills over, that will give us the capacity to go out and pull some more bonds and still be serviced out of this pot.”
While transferring mills would create this fund, other departments could be in jeopardy because their budgets would possibly decrease, thus causing the county to potentially raise taxes in order to fund all projects and departments.
District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said he wants to bring in the most revenue for the capital improvement plan while also not increasing taxes. Based on the recent years’ population increase, he said he feels confident that the county will not need to raise millage.
“I personally don’t want to have to do another tax increase,” Montgomery said. “I feel the future is bright for this area, and I’m comfortable doing what we can without raising millage.”
District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said he wants a large capital improvement fund and supports increasing taxes to build it.
“You’re going to continue to have needs out there,” Trainer said. “I don’t see how we’re going to carry out all of our plans without increasing the mills.”
The supervisors ultimately decided not to vote on how they would build the capital improvement plan at Wednesday’s meeting due to District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller’s absence and this past year’s unreceived millage assessment. They decided they will choose a plan at their budget meeting in August.
Norris told the supervisors to create a list of projects they would like to see accomplished over the next few years.
The main project mentioned Wednesday was the Oktibbeha County Lake dam’s structural issues. Howard said this should be a first-priority project because this lake is for the entire county, not just the people of his district.
“The lake is an Oktibbeha County lake, not just District 3,” Howard said. “The lake should be an overall county project, not a district project.”
Other supervisors did not necessarily agree with him.
Montgomery and Trainer both mentioned using the funds for road improvements, while Howard advised them that capital improvement should cover buildings, services and other county needs aside from just roads. Trainer said country residents should also have a say so in what their tax dollars fund.
“We should let the citizens vote on which project is most important to them and then decide from there,” Trainer said.