Petal residents to see no tax increase

By HASKEL BURNS,

 Petal residents will not see an increase in their ad valorem taxes this upcoming fiscal year, as the Petal Board of Aldermen recently voted to keep the city millage the same for the 12th straight year.

During a special-called meeting last week, aldermen approved a budget with a total city millage of 46.2 and 55 mills for the Petal School District for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The city’s general fund will collect 39.48 mills, which will be used for city services like public safety, street repair, recreation and drainage improvements.

The remainder of the city millage will be used for paying bonds issued by the city over the last 20 years, in addition to supporting the Petal Library.

“I made a pledge when I first ran for mayor that I will never agree to a millage increase,” Mayor Hal Marx said. “If we want to keep attracting new businesses and new home construction, we need to let people know that our tax rates are not going to increase, unlike other municipalities in our area.”

A mill is defined as one-thousandth of a dollar, one-hundredth of a dime or a tenth of a cent.

The city’s general fund is set at approximately $8.76 million. Of that, about $2.19 million will go to Petal Police Department and $2.53 million will go to Petal Fire Department.

Approximately $1.39 million is earmarked for streets and highways, with $788,098 going to recreation, $114,751 going to the senior/cultural center and $85,629 going to Petal Civic Center.

The $8.76 million in the general fund is about $400,000 less than the previous fiscal year.

“Rather than raise taxes, we cut spending – mostly in supply budgets among our departments,” Marx said.

That includes a 29 percent cut in the Parks and Recreation Department, where the board voted to move two full-time positions to part-time and chose not to fill a vacant position for administrative assistant. Ward 6 Alderman Craig Bullock made a motion to include the administrative assistant position in the budget, but the motion died for lack of a second.

“I feel like – especially over the last few months with budget issues and things like that – we’ve almost been cutting the department’s feet off in a lot of ways, and setting them up to fail,” he said. “This is one department where we can actually produce revenue for the city, that we don’t have the ability to do in some other areas.

“So there’s some heart-felt needs that these (Parks and Recreation) guys have shared with me, to be able to stay on track with what we tasked them to do a year ago, even in the midst of a 29 percent budget cut.”