School budget may require slight tax increase

(courtesy image)
Staff Writer

Preliminary estimates show a small property tax increase will be needed to fund the local revenue share of the West Point Consolidated School District’s 2019-20 budget. 

According to West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson, the school district’s request for $7,632,141 in local tax revenues for general operations and $313,400 for debt service could mean a 1 mill increase in the district’s current 53 mill rate for operations. The 2.5 mill rate for debt service likely wouldn’t change. 

“These are very tentative estimates because we don’t have the final numbers from the county tax assessor, but right now it looks like the debt service would stay about the same and we would need about one mill for operations. We might be able to shave a little here or a little there,” said Robinson. 

A one mill property tax increase would amount to about $10 additional in taxes a year on a $100,000 home. 

The school board approves a budget and local tax revenue requests. The Board of Selectmen set the actual tax rate needed to produce that amount. The Selectmen generally do that in late August or September. Robinson calculates the rate and recommends it to the board. 

The school board is scheduled to approve the budget request at its meeting Monday night. 

If a property tax increase is required, West Point would remain roughly on par with the rates charged in Starkville/Oktibbeha County and Tupelo, although the assessed valuation for property in Clay County is far below those districts. 

The value of property in the school district area, which is the old city district before consolidation, is about $161 million, up from about $159 million last year. That small increase likely is not enough to make a significant difference in revenues without the small tax increase, Robinson said. 

Overall the growth in the assessed value of property across the county was up about the same percentage. 

The school district’s total budget shows $32,345,199.85 in revenues with $23,609,590 in general operations expenses and $8,314,209.25 in special fund expenses which mostly are non-classroom expenses such as transportation. 

Overall, the budget projects a $312,102.43 surplus. The budget year runs July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020. Last the end of next year, the budget projects the school district’s general fund balance “rainy day” fund will be $2,370,861.43 and the special revenue surplus fund will total $982,225. 

That would be about 10 percent of the total school budget. The state recommends school districts keep at least 7.5 percent of their budgets in reserves and more if possible.In the current year that just ended, that percentage was about 9.4 percent. 

The proposed budget includes nine fewer teachers, based on continued sluggish enrollment, but increases in pension contributions and insurance ate up $400,000 of the $542,000 in savings from those position cuts. Other small increases spread throughout the budget, including funds set aside for teacher pay raises unless the state doesn't come through with full funding, pushed up the overall totals.