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Ordinances would adopt city budget, property tax rate for 2017 fiscal year

By Bill Short

Flag City LogoThe Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed ordinances on first reading last week that would adopt the city budget and property tax rate for the 2017 fiscal year.
Board members took the action on separate motions during their May 9 regular monthly meeting. Each motion was passed by five affirmative votes, with Aldermen Larry Dagen and Hank Hawkins absent.
The proposed ordinances are scheduled for a public hearing and final reading at the board’s June 13 meeting.
During discussion shortly before the votes, City Finance Director John Trusty said the proposed budget contains no decrease in service levels, no privatization of city departments and no layoffs of city employees.
But he noted that it includes “a continued emphasis” on funding for regular street repairs, as well as the elimination of “deferred maintenance needs” of city-owned infrastructure.
Citing the second year of a compensation plan that the board approved in October 2015, Trusty said the budget contains an increase in pay levels for all “competent employees,” not an “across-the-board” hike.
He recalled that the compensation plan dealt with what the city considered a “major disparity” in police and fire salaries and also with other employees.
Trusty said the budget allocates $334,000 as the initial portion of $1 million in matching funds that the city will provide during the next three years for the Resiliency Grant.
Also included is $103,972 as the initial portion of a two-year commitment of local matching funds for a state grant the city is seeking in order to enhance the Farmers Market property.
Trusty said the budget includes funding to establish the Maintenance of Effort “number” for the Millington Municipal Schools system, which will begin its third year of operation on July 1.
But because the system’s funding request for its Capital Improvements Plan exceeds the city’s Debt Affordability Limit, he said that must be discussed during the board’s budget work sessions.
Because the state mandates that Millington’s water revenues cover its water expenses, Trusty said the budget includes a 5-percent increase in the city’s water rates.
“I have been telling you for a couple of years that we were going to have to do this,” he said. “Well, we’ve finally run out of ways to avoid doing this.”
Trusty said there are “several major items coming up” in both the Water and Sewer funds, but only the Water Fund currently needs an increase.
The budget continues Millington’s $1.53 property tax rate for each $100 of assessed valuation. But Trusty acknowledged that the proposed tax ordinance is “a little different” from previous years.
He noted that, historically, the board has approved a “singular” tax rate for the city. But because of the Tax Increment Financing District it created for development along Highway 51, it was necessary to “break out” the amount that will go toward debt service.
In response to a question by Alderman Bethany Huffman, Trusty said setting the rate for debt service allows the city to “maximize” its collections under the Tax Increment Financing to get the most revenue from the property taxes during that development phase.

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