Over 6,000 petitions were received by the Madison County Chancery Clerk requesting that the shady tax hike be rescinded and any future plans for bond issue undergo a full public review and referendum.
After a futile attempt to explain away the tax hike with a shallow explanation laying the blame on how a two year old previous 1.5mil tax cut, the 3-year old privatization of trash pick up, and even overstating the amount of increased annual support costs for Holmes Junior College resulted in the requirement for a 3.33 mil increase; Board President Tim Johnson never gave an explanation for all the rhetoric of the last 2.5 years as to how there would be no tax hike for the building of Reunion Parkway and Reunion Interchange on I-55; nor why Madison County taxpayers should be burdened with the virtually unheard of local requirement to pay for an Interstate Interchange.
Reunion Interchange would be the first one in Mississippi to be paid for by local government and one of a handful in the entire United States!
In reality, much of the increase is going for Bond Debt Service Costs to pay for the last $50 million bond issue which was approved in 2006 (issued $5M in 2006; $12M in 2007; $33M in 2008), and the income from a 5.3% new growth will help cover costs of inflation, etc.
Actually 2.60 mills goes to bond debt service costs and .73 mils to General County for a 3% pay raise to County Employees and other items. President Tim Johnson stated that a million dollars was required for waste management, but actually the millage for that area was reduced. He also stated that $1M was required for Holmes Junior College, but it is actually less than a 0.5 mil or less than $500K.
Not mentioned was the fact that the 2008 Budget was a deficit budget which included $700K from the uncommitted cash (reserve account). None of this $700K was used, but was it was still included in the 2008 Budget figure... so, that is $700,000, 0.7 mil that could have been reduced from the 3.33 mil increase right off the top!
After discussion, a motion was made by D.I. Smith, with a second by John Bell Crosby to the roll the tax hike back to zero, but that was defeated with a 2-3 split vote; and the 3.33 mil tax increase was passed by a vote of 3-1-1. Tim Johnson, Karl Banks, and Paul Griffin voted for the increase. D.I. Smith voted against it, and John Bell Crosby abstained.
Afterward, Board President Tim Johnson announced that he would not be seeking re-election.
More that 150 residents were present for the hearings and a number expressed frustration with how the County could even consider a tax increase with all the new growth and during these trying economic times, questioning management, engineering fees, and also demanding open, transparent and accountable government. Even Mayor Hawkins-Butler, City of Madison, made a passionate plea for the Board to conduct a scrub of the $60mil budget with an eye for cuts and cost savings and not have any tax increase. That advice went unheeded!
Then Monday night, news started spreading of the outrageous Canton Municipal Separate School District tax hike. They had published Notice for a planned 2.5 mill increase, but late Monday adopted a whopping 19.4 mill increase! Then, on Tuesday after a public outcry rolled the increase back to a 7.7 mill increase. So, many Madison residents will not only have to pay 10% higher county taxes, but now have a 25% increase in Canton School Taxes from 30.89 to 38.59 mills! So, many Madison County taxpayers attended the wrong meeting Monday and were not aware of the huge increase!