My predecessor once told me that “you can go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.” He was oh so right with that statement. It”s just something about getting into a person”s pocketbook that brings out a different side of them that you”ve never met before. In my line of work this always tends to happen around September when the next year”s budget is being prepared and proposed.
Taxes, viewed by many as a necessary evil, are basically the payment method used to fund the public services that all citizens use on a daily basis. If not for taxes there would be no roads and bridges to ride and cross to and from work, no court system to allow you the justice you feel you are owed, and no public library for you and your children to take advantage of. These are just a few of the areas that your taxes are spent by public officials to run and maintain.
In my opinion, one of the bright spots of paying local taxes is you can actually see where the majority of your local taxes go and what services they provide.
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors has taken much heat from the public and press over the last three years due mainly to tax increases with about 60% of the increase going to pay for the 2008 Hospital Bond Referendum and the other 40% staying with the county. I”m not here to argue that taxes have not increased, they have. I just want the taxpaying public to be aware of the whole picture.
To fully understand how the county arrived where we are now, you have to look back almost 10 years to the 2001-2002 budget year. In 2001-2002, the county millage for that year was 100.97, which included the county school millage. A steady decline of cash reserves along with the 2008 Hospital Bond Referendum has brought us to our current millage of 110.97.
The Hospital Bond was put before the whole county electorate to decide in the General Election of 2008. Every newspaper and television station that covers Starkville/Oktibbeha County news had numerous articles and news segments that explained what was going to be done in the renovation/expansion, how much the projected project would cost taxpayers, and what type of millage increase would be involved. … With the amount of money in question, I felt that the best way to approach the situation was to let you, the owner, decide if you were or were not willing to make upgrades to your county-owned hospital. The question was placed on the 2008 General Election ballot and it passed with a 62% approval. The only thing left to do after a bond referendum is passed, is pay for it. If you look at the current millage rate, 110.97, and take into account the 7.25 from the hospital bond and ambulance service, you are left with 103.72 in county millage. That is only 2.75 mills above what the county millage rate was in 2001-2002 when it was at 100.97.
In closing, all I ask of every taxpayer whether you”re employed, not working, at the bank drinking coffee, at the cafe eating lunch, loafing at the hardware store or just simply setting at home reading the paper; please get all the facts before you criticize your local elected officials. Only a fool would raise taxes just for the sake of raising them.
Daniel Jackson, Starkville
Jackson is Oktibbeha Supervisor for District 4.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.