While Starkville residents may have seen property tax increases annually from Oktibbeha County, the City of Starkville’s budget has lived mostly on a stagnant millage rate.
But on Tuesday, the Starkville Board of Aldermen approved an ad valorem tax increase of .45 mills to staff a new grant-funded fire station and begin repairing its ending fund balance, which has plummeted by over $2 million in three years.
Mayor Parker Wiseman had to break a 3-3 tie to pass the budget after Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver recused himself and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn made an amendment to allocate $5,000 to a local tutoring company.
This amendment initially produced a split vote from three supporters and two abstaining aldermen — Sandra Sistrunk, vice mayor and budget chair, and Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas.
Supporters were reversed after Sistrunk amended the motion to take the money out of the city’s new contingency fund in an effort to balance the budget again. The board tied 3-3, this time with Vaughn, Ward 6 Alderman Roy Á. Perkins and Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker opposing the action.
“We get paid to vote yes or no,” Parker said, after the meeting, explaining why he would never abstain from a vote. “We’re funding a company we know nothing about. We don’t know it it’s for profit or not for profit, and the very people who wanted to fund it were previously for eliminating outside contributions,” Parker added.
Additionally, the board approved a sanitation fee increase of $2.50 for city residents, totaling their monthly bill to $13.
Business owners, who are now paying $15.75, will see a $4.25 increase in their monthly fee, Sharon Boyd, Environmental Services Department head, said Tuesday.
Wiseman explained the increase was necessary in order to merge the city’s litter, landscape and sanitation services into the new Environmental Services Department.
The board voted 4-2 with Vaughn and Perkins against.
“The board-approved budget is simply a tax and spend budget,” Perkins said after the meeting.