BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - It looks like a property tax increase is in store for Bay St. Louis residents. City leaders have taken steps to increase its millage rate by five mils. As WLOX News has reported, an independent audit report showed the city has a serious cash flow problem.
City leaders say a tax hike coupled with other financial adjustments will put the city on the road to economic recovery. Leaders in the Bay say, for safety reasons, there are areas throughout the city that desperately need sidewalks. Dirt roads in the city's annexed area need to be paved. And then there are projects like an the old bridge on Central Avenue with immediate needs.
"Actually, we consider Central Avenue, a critical need that's not on a wish list that's something we need to address this year. And we need to have that bridge stabilized," said Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame.
Fillingame says increasing the Bay's millage rate by 5 mills would help take care of the city's cash flow problem and allow the city to embark on some capital improvement projects.
"It will allow us to start building some cash reserves. That was the biggest issue that the auditors had that Bay St. Louis basically operates on a day to day basis with the revenues we have coming in. But if we're ever going to build any kind of capitol reserves we need to raise the rates a little bit," explained Fillingame.
The mayor says the property tax increase would mean about $50 dollars a year on a house valued at $100,000. But he says even with the increase Bay residents will continue to enjoy one of the lowest millage rates in the entire state. Yet, some residents believe that does little to make the tax hike an easier pill to swallow.
"Our taxes shouldn't go up because they don't do anything to improve flooding or digging the ditches or anything," said Bay St. Louis resident Gladys Crowe.
Her neighbor down the street Betty Bennett said, "They do something out here, ok I'm willing to pay more taxes. But just be fair, just look at our ditches. We don't have any."
Residents will get a chance to voice their opinions about the proposed tax increase at an up coming public hearing. It will be held Thursday, September 4 at 5:30 p.m., at the Bay St. Louis City Hall Council Chambers on Main Street.