By BRENDA OWEN
After passing the House of Representatives, a bill to allow a vote to temporarily increase Pontotoc’s city sales tax by one-quarter of a cent to pay for increased fire protection died in a Senate subcommittee, leaving city officials forced to consider reinstating an ad valorem tax to get the funding needed.
“The city, as the bill stated, was asking for the vote (60 percent) of its citizens to allow us to increase our sales tax by .25 cents,” said Pontotoc Mayor Bill Rutledge. “This was determined that in less than five years, the truck and station would be paid off and the tax would automatically be removed.”
With the failure of the bill to pass the subcommittee, Rutledge said possible alternatives for funding will be addressed with the Board of Aldermen during their budget planning meeting.
He explained that the city must find sources of funding to update fire protection.
“The City of Pontotoc under mandate from the Fire Rating Bureau to maintain its Class 7 rating will have to purchase a ladder/ aerial truck, build an additional fire station and employ additional firefighters,” he said.
Rutledge is extremely reluctant to consider an ad valorem tax for funding.
“The city of Pontotoc has zero ad valorem tax. This tax was removed under Mayor Howard Stafford's leadership and has been maintained since,” Rutledge said.
Senator Nickey Browning, who introduced the bill in the Mississippi State Senate, said there were a total of nine similar bills from cities around the state which were killed in the Finance Subcommittee.
“I felt like our bill was more needed than most of the others because we were asking for funds for a fire station, a fire truck and salaries for fire fighers, all of which relate to public safety, and I asked that we be considered in that way, but the subcomittee killed all nine of the bills,” he said.
He agreed that the city being forced to consider reinstating an ad valorem is a disagreeable option. “I live in the city myself,” Browning said. “And I think an ad valorem tax is the most unfair tax of all.”
However, with the safety of the citizens at stake, such a tax may be necessary to resolve the situation.
For more information, you may e-mail Mayor Bill Rutledge at firstname.lastname@example.org or Senator Nickey Browning at email@example.com.