Tax increase likely on the way in Gautier

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - By Doug Walker – bio | email

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Times are tough in the city of Gautier.  Despite the fact the city is home to a mall and hundreds of other businesses, Gautier city leaders say a budget deficit is a real possibility.  That's why a tax increase is also a real possibility.

That has many people concerned, including Dorothy Burney.  The former teacher enjoys the morning on her front porch of her well manicured home on a quiet street.  With people hurting, she feels a tax increase is not a good idea.

"At this particular time, I don't think is feasible because of the job market and because of the economic slump that we are in today and there's not enough jobs and folks are paying high taxes as it is," Burney said.

At the Carpet Mart on Highway 90, John Kotsakos works on a potential sale.  He has owned the store for 15 years, and doesn't hide his feelings about the proposed tax hike.

"I think it's the craziest thing I've ever heard." Kotsakos said.  "Right now, business is tougher than it's ever been. It's been absolutely hard to make a decent living right now if you're in business for yourself. And for them to go up on property taxes is unfair and I think it's the wrong time."

Several years ago when the coast's economy was much better than it is now, city leaders in Gautier slashed taxes by about 15 percent. It's a decision made then that has come back to haunt the current administration now, said Mayor Tommy Fortenberry.

"We're going to get beat up for it, this mayor and council that we're raising taxes every year, but all we're trying to is catch up. We're just playing the hand that was dealt us," Fortenberry said.  "When you dropped it five mils, that amounts to over a half a million dollars."

And those are dollars that will be hard to make up, even with a tax increase.  If the tax increase is passed, it would generate about $200,000 a year for the city.

The council meets Tuesday night to discuss the budget.  By state law, the new budget has to be approved no later than September 15th.

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