BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Bay St. Louis residents had their say Thursday night about possible increases to utility rates and property taxes. As we've reported, city leaders want to increase the current millage rate by five mills to help the city balance its budget. If adopted, that increase would take the rate from 17 to 22 mills.
"I watch a TV show y'all may watch or not. They have a segment 'I'm mad as hell.' Well, I'm mad as hell. The reason? I pay my garbage bill and my waste water bill. But the city never paid that bill and I'm here to ask why and where is the money?" asked Bay St. Louis Resident David Wells.
City Councilman Doug Seal responded, saying, "Approximately 66-percent increase over a four year period. We did not raise rates when we should have. Period. Why? We don't like to raise taxes, we don't like to raise rates, because it's hard. It's not easy; it's not the popular thing to do."
Questions about a utility rate increase came up early during the budget hearing. Utility rates are expected to go up, along with property taxes.
"I am not against a millage increase. I'm not, because I love the city and I want the city to prosper. But I am going to be very against it if this city council doesn't set these utility rates at a responsible rate that will prove to us in wards 5 and 6 why we should even be a part of this," said Libby Garcia.
As for the millage rate increase, city leaders say increasing it by five mills would mean about $50 more a year on a house valued at $100,000.
"I'm in favor of raising the millage. I do feel utility bills need to go up. My councilman, Mr. Doug Seal, stated it very eloquently the council should have, would have. We want you to make the tough decision to make the city run effectively," explained Bay resident Christina Richardson.
"Over the years, we've found that the administration has been in denial of our financial crisis. Even today they will not admit we have a problem," said resident Ron Thorp.
City leaders listened and said they will now go to work on finalizing a budget. That's expected to happen September 15.