Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Madison County 2009 Budget and Tax Levy

The people of Madison County spoke loud and clear via a barrage of petitions, emails and letters in manner never witnessed in Madison County Politics and providing the motivation for the 3 members of the Madison County Board of Supervisors who masterminded a text book “Bait & Switch” routine two weeks ago in which an additional 3 mills were added to an announced 3.33 tax increase; for a total of 6.33 mills, to reconsider.

Over 6,000 petitions were received by the Madison County Chancery Clerk requesting that the shady tax hike be rescinded and any future plans for bond issue undergo a full public review and referendum.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!

Click here to download a spreadsheet comparison of the 2008 levy with the new 2009 levy.

Click here to download a spreadsheet summary of the 2009 Budget Expense Categories compared to the 2008 Budget

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Petition Against Tax Hike

Many, many Madison County residents have requested a way to express their sentiment regarding the recent Madison County tax hike and are using this petition as an official way to communicate and make feelings a part of the permanent record of Madison County.

The Chancery Clerk office says the fax is running continuously and hasn't shut off for hours. They are also accepting scanned emailed copies or email notes with the petition cut and pasted into the body of the note with name and address info provided. They may be sent to: Chancery Clerk at mailto:chanceryclerk@madison-co.com

They are even keeping a log of phone calls to the Chancery Clerk office regarding the tax hike!

Experienced office personnel say there has been nothing equal to this since the "100% reappraisal of property" in 2002-2003 time frame!

Where the tax increase started: "The more things change, the more they stay the same!"

Madison County -- It's deja' vu all over again by Andy Taggart, RED/BLUE

In 2006, my former Madison County Board of Supervisors colleague Doug Jones and I voted against and wrote against a slip-shod $50 million bond issue, knowing it would lead to a tax increase. Now, that is exactly what has happened to Madison County taxpayers.

Doug joined me this past week in writing a follow-up column addressing the facts that led to this outrage. Those who are interested in reading it may find it set out in full below.

As readers will note, the tactics used by the majority of the Madison County Board of Supervisors last week, when they jacked up the tax rate by 20%, perfectly mirror their tactics two years ago when they doubled the county's debt load to about $100 million. Where have you gone, Yogi Berra?


Click to see news article from February 2006 explaining how our current tax fiasco started!

It's deja vu all over again: Here is a follow up opinion piece

By Andy Taggart and Doug Jones

Friday, September 5, 2008

Madison County Taxpayers Upset Over Double Increase

POSTED: 11:40 pm CDT September 4, 2008
Madison County Taxpayers Upset Over Double Increase

MADISON COUNTY, Miss. -- Madison County taxpayers are angry about a property tax hike double than anticipated, 16 WAPT reported.

The county's Board of Supervisors approved a 6.3 mil increase this week, which prompted a strong response to Feedback 16.

From the Internet to the radio, taxpayers want to know why their taxes jumped by the largest amount in the county's history, 16 WAPT's Joseph Pleasant said.

"I would personally like to see Tim Johnson, Karl Banks and Paul Griffin resign," said Frank Halford, a taxpayer, referencing the members of the Board of Supervisors who voted in favor of the mil increase.

The board heard public comment on a 3.3 mil increase before closing public comment and voting on a 6.3 mil increase.

"It's a classic case of bait and switch," Halford said.

Madison County taxpayers are angry at the Board of Supervisors and Board President Tim Johnson, in particular.

A radio ad tells listeners, "Tim Johnson raised your taxes. He had some help -- yeah -- but he was the ring leader."

Johnson, who spoke with 16 WAPT from Birmingham, said the mil tax increase will go exclusively to road projects in the county.

"I truly believe, as we build the infrastructure Madison County needs, that's going to encourage economic and commercial development," he said.

District 3 Supervisor D.I Smith said about 50 taxpayers have called and posted to his Web site DISmith.com. Smith said infrastructure is a top priority -- especially at the Gluckstadt Interstate 55 interchange -- but he voted against the tax increase.

"We ought to do it the way we did it in the past: A partnership," he said.

Smith points to the Highland Colony Parkway, where developers, cities and the counties funded the road without a tax increase.

"For families now, it's probably the worst time for us to have this type of tax increase," Smith said.

On a $200,000 home, the increase amounts to about $126. The increase will be even more for people annexed into the city of Madison this year. Smith said those residents will be paying about 28 mils in city taxes for the first time.

WAPT left messages for supervisors John Bell Crosby, Griffin and Banks, but they did not return the station's calls.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Madison County Real Property Tax Calculator

During the last few weeks I've been asked numerous times about taxes, impact of City of Madison Annexation, and impact of Madison County tax millage levy increases. So, to help individuals analyze the various complex tax questions I developed an Excel spreadsheet program which is pretty handy in helping to answer your questions .... click here to down load the Madison County Real Property Tax Calculator file.

I hope this is useful to you. If you have suggested improvements please call or email. Please click below to post comments! Thanks!

Supervisors OK 6.33-mill tax hike

Tuesday, Sept 2, 2008, a PUBLIC HEARING was conducted to review the upcoming 2008-2009 budget and associated tax levy. A public notice had been previously published announcing the budget hearing and proposed 3.33 mil tax levy.

Then on Tuesday after the PUBLIC HEARING closed, the County Administrator informed the Board of "New Growth and Requirements." It is anticipated that another $5oM bond issue will be needed to cover the costs of the projects. So, another 3 mils was added to the already proposed 3.33 mil levy totaling 6.33 mils. There was outrage expressed by many in attendance that such a "Bait and Switch" scheme would be used and many expressed concern as to whether the tax increase was legal with out proper PUBLIC NOTICE.

Supervisors Tim Johnson, Karl Banks and Paul Griffin voted for the increased taxes; and John Bell Crosby and D.I. Smith voted against the increase.

Several residents stated they would oppose future bond issues by signing a petition requesting a referendum on the proposed $50 bond issue. If 1,500 residents sign a petition, the proposed bond issue will have to be approved by voters through a referendum.

On a $100,000 house, the annual tax increase will be $63.30; on a $200,000 house, $126.60. On a $300,000 house, it will be $189.90 annually and $253.20 on a $400,000 house.