It looks to be a virtual certainty that property taxes in McComb will increase for street paving next year — on top of a tax hike already in the works to build a new Martin Luther King Center gymnasium.
“A lot of people say they want streets paved, but they don’t want to pay for it,” Mayor Quordiniah Lockley said during Tuesday’s city board work session. “To be able to pave any streets, we’re going to have to borrow some money.”
Lockley said he spoke with Pike County Tax Assessor Laurie Allen to get information on how much tax increases in 1-mill increments would cost owners of variously valued properties, and presented that information during the session.
According to Lockley, an increase of 1 mill would raise taxes on a $50,000 single-family home by $5, from $199 to $204, and on a $100,000 home by $10, from $398 to $408.
A 2-mill tax hike would make annual tax payments $10 and $20 higher, respectively.
With a 2-mill hike already expected for the MLK Center, the tax boost on a $50,000 property could be $15 or $20 with a street repair tax added, and $30 to $40 on a $100,000 home.
The mayor said the previous board made cuts and moved millage from the operating budget to debt service to keep from raising taxes when it borrowed $3.2 million for paving in late 2016. It did the same thing when it borrowed $2 million before that. “A lot of people are complaining about streets,” Lockley said.
“They didn’t complain when the city borrowed $3.2 million. They didn’t complain when the city borrowed $2 million.
“To eliminate potholes, we need to pave. To pave, we need to borrow. To borrow, we need to raise taxes.”
Selectman Ronnie Brock noted that the board is already the target of complaints.
“We’re going to talked about if we don’t fix streets, so let’s fix streets and be talked about,” Brock said.
Selectman Devante Johnson asked City Administrator Kelvin Butler to research the city borrowing capacity and report back to the board.
On potholes specifically, Public Works Director Alice Barnes told board members that her department has filled some holes with cold-mix asphalt, “but that only lasts about three months.”
She said hot-mix asphalt would last longer, but the city can’t buy a large quantity at one time because it can’t keep it hot long enough to keep it spreadable while moving from one street to another.
Barnes also noted that public works has only four employees who can be tasked with filling potholes, and they also have other duties like mowing and cleaning ditches.
Lockley blamed the previous board for that, saying that division had 14 employees until that board made staffing cuts.
Johnson asked Butler to look at options for hiring additional workers in the coming budget year.
In another infrastructure matter, the board heard from Lockley that the way has been cleared for the city to purchase a piece of property near the Martin Luther King Center in Burglund.
He reported that the board of the Delta Foundation, based in Greenville and headed by Summit native Spencer Nash, had agreed to sell 6.6 acres to the city for $55,000.
The property, which included a baseball field, was appraised at $61,000.
“The city has attempted to purchase this property before, but this is the first time the Delta Foundation board has agreed to sell,” Lockley said.
He said McComb attorney Ashley Atkinson is running a title search to ensure the property has a clean title, and should complete that this week.