Ocean Springs residents may face higher taxes

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Just one week before the budget is adopted, Ocean Springs residents learned that they could may soon be paying more in taxes.

The Ocean Springs School Board has a proposal to increase ad valorum taxes to pay for a $37 million bond. Monday, school board leaders held a workshop detailing the budget and the possible tax increase.

The money will help build a new high school and realign other schools in the district.

But now that it's time to start paying back the debt, there's a problem.

"The reason the rate is going up on the mills is because of the debt," said Donna Nester, Business Administrator for the district.

A mill increase has some Ocean Springs residents questioning the budget. The upcoming budget includes an estimated 62.2 millage. That's about five mills more than years past. It's more than some residents expected to pay.

"Even though we are a middle class community, we rely heavily on local effort," said School Superintendent Robert Hirsch.

Hirsch said the middle class community receives less than in federal and state dollars in comparison to neighboring communities, leaving residents to foot the bill.

He also said the bond money is not only helping build a new multi-million dollar high school, it's also developing a district-wide Pre-K program. But that's something some residents don't want.

"Why go full-fledged into the Pre-K program at this time instead of maintaining a program for the disadvantaged," said one Ocean Springs resident.

Many people who attended the workshop want the school board to restructure their budget proposal. They also want them to re-think projects like the Pre-K program. But the superintendent said programs like those are critical to the long term success of the Ocean Springs School District.

"I feel that we, as a district, are more qualified to offer a more community-wide education program for Pre-K," said Hirsch.

Hirsch said expanding the Pre-K program will take time. However, paying the bond is of immediate concern. And it's only a matter of days before the taxpayers of Ocean Springs learn whether or not they will incur those costs.

The budget for the upcoming school year will be voted on at the next school board meeting. That meeting is set for next Tuesday, August 11.

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