No tax increase planned for Lee County

TUPELO – Lee County residents could escape a tax increase this year as government officials try to absorb declining revenues by trimming the 2010 budget.
“We don’t want to raise taxes, and we don’t anticipate raising taxes,” said Lee County Administrator Sean Thompson, who prepares the budget.
Thompson said that while the county’s biggest revenue source – property taxes – appear stable, other funding pools aren’t as robust. Motor-vehicle taxes are down, as are mobile-home taxes.
The bulk of those taxes come from new sales, which have fallen since the nation’s economy turned sour.
As a result, Thompson said, the county will likely institute an across-the-board salary freeze as well as budget cuts in most departments.
District 1 Supervisor Phil Morgan went a step further, telling the Daily Journal he wants each department cut its budget by 5 percent. He also wants a 2-mill tax cut for residents so they can save money until the economy recovers.
“If not 2 mills, then any reduction would be good,” Morgan said, “because so many people have lost their jobs and are on fixed incomes.”
The county’s current millage is either 34.66 or 38.66 depending on where you live, which means the government collects $3.46-$3.86 of taxes per every $1,000 of assessed property value.
Such a move would save a homeowner about $20 annually on a property assessed at $100,000. But it would cost the county roughly $1.5 million in lost revenues.
Lee County earns about $752,000 per mill.
Supervisors have not yet seen a final draft of the proposed FY10 budget. Thompson said he hopes to present it within the next couple weeks. The board will then hold a public hearing, which has been scheduled for 10 a.m., Sept. 11.
The final budget must be adopted four days later and will take effect Oct. 1.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com. Also read Emily’s blog, The Government Grind, at NEMS360.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal