By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – This Tuesday’s upcoming vote on a proposed tax levy has Saltillo residents polarized.
The biggest question surrounding the ad valorem tax levy, which will fund road improvements over the next five years, is how much it will cost individuals.
The 8-mill tax increase will raise most Saltillo residents’ property taxes by just under 30 percent. Some residents won’t see an increase because of senior citizen tax breaks or homestead exemptions.
The tax increase will fund three road projects, which will total $2,556,208.25, according to preliminary estimates done by Randy Hathcock, Saltillo’s city engineer.
Alderman Mitchell Brazeal said the tax increase is expected to bring in $233,000 each year if voted on.
The first improvement project will address congestion at the intersection of Cartwright and Mobile streets by adding a turn lane from Mobile Street onto Cartwright Street.
The project is estimated to cost $142,391.80.
The second project will turn Old Highway 45 from a two-lane to a five-lane road where it meets Highway 145 next to McDonald’s.
Saltillo Police Chief Steve Brooks said this is a much-needed improvement.
“There is no doubt (the improvement will) be beneficial to the city,” he said. “Especially at the McDonald’s intersection and up by the high school.” Brooks said they work two or three wrecks each week at the McDonald’s intersection.
The five-lane project will add the lanes for 700 feet and cost roughly $496,988.55.
The most expensive and third priority will be turning Highway 145 into a three-lane road for about 5,000 feet – from Mobile Street to Pannel Drive. The project is estimated to cost $1.9 million.
Brazeal said the project is slated last because the Mississippi Department of Transportation is doing a safety study on the highway which could result in MDOT spending some money to improve the road.
Pat Carr, a Saltillo resident of 48 years, fears the tax places a burden on the wrong people.
“I just don’t feel like we’re obligated to do the improvements that everyone is going to enjoy,” Carr said. “I would prefer a sales tax where everyone would have to pay and then I wouldn’t say a word.” He said he and his family will be voting against the tax hike.
The Saltillo Transportation Enhancement Program, if voted for, will expire in five years and require residents to vote again.
The Tupelo Major Thoroughfare Committee is similarly structured and Chairman Greg Pirkle said it has had a big enough impact to be re-approved through five phases.
“I think it’s been very beneficial for the people of Tupelo, it’s certainly improved transportation through Tupelo and around,” Pirkle said. “I think if the people of Saltillo approve the program they will see similar results. I think it’s been a great opportunity for increased economic development to Tupelo and think it will bring the same kind of development anywhere people choose to improve their infrastructure.”
To estimate your increased tax obligation if the STEP program is approved:
1. Go to DeltaComputer Systems.com/search.
2. Select Lee County under Mississippi Counties, avoid Lee County, Ala.
3. Select Real Property Tax.
4. Enter your information to locate your property tax records.
5. Locate the amount of city tax due on your property last year.
6. Divide the city tax amount by 27 (current mill rate).
7. Multiply the result by 8 (proposed mill increase).
8. This is the approximate increase you will pay without figuring any deductions.
Tax Due – $100
Divided by 27 – $3.704
Multiplied by 8 – $29.632
A tax obligation of $100 last year will increase to
$129.63 next year if the 8- mill increase passes.
Visit Saltillo City Hall to see the proposed road improvement plans.