City budget expected to be up 3.69 percent but tax levy unchanged; city school tax sees rise

By J. Lynn West
New Albany aldermen were scheduled to meet late Tuesday afternoon to approve a $9.8 million budget for the city for 2013-2014.
The meeting was too late for the deadline for this week’s edition of the News Exchange but Mayor Tim Kent said few changes were expected from the version presented this past week. Many of the line items were not filled in in the version presented at the public hearing, but the main totals were.
Perhaps most important to city residents is that no tax increase was called for. Those in the municipal separate school district will see a 4.4-percent rise, however.
Assuming aldermen make no major changes, the approved budget will be up 3.69 percent over last year.
The largest part of the city’s revenue comes from state sales tax but the contribution by the electric department in lieu of taxes is a clear second place. Many of the revenue items were listed as unchanged from last year.
Expenses were up from 10 to 17 percent in some city departments but most of the increases were attributed to rising insurance and other employee benefit costs. The judicial department was up more than 17 percent, mostly because of new computer equipment and professional services.
The police budget was only up a little more than two percent despite being the largest department in terms of cost. Benefits were up as was part-time pay, but part-time pay is offset by lower non-administrative salaries and a smaller vehicle budget.
The next-largest department, the fire department, is up more than 16 percent, mostly because of benefits and the possible need for a truck.
The solid-waste department, separate from the other departments and required to be self-supporting, has expenses down 9.58 percent, with less allocated for hourly wages.
Another separate account and budget is that for the two-percent tourism tax. Estimates are that the tax next year will be $625,000, an 8.7-percent increase over this year.
This part of the budget likely will see the most change due to the hiring of a marketing director, which requires the shifting of funds.
In the preliminary tourism tax budget, the Union County Heritage Museum is seeing a 2.95-percent funding increase while City Beautification is down 22.37 percent.
The Magnolia Civic Center is up 11.96 percent with about $67,000 allocated to pay on the building loan but the preliminary totals show the UCDA funding reduced from $92,000 last year to zero. That could call into question the continuance of events such as the Tallahatchie RiverFest, Freedom Celebration and Christmas Parade that have been done by the UCDA.
New Albany Main Street is down 4.4 percent, the Tallahatchie Arts Council down 16.67 percent, and the new marketing department has gone from not existing at all this past year to receiving $145,250 for next year.
Miscellaneous is up 4.11 percent and in that mix is $100,000 dedicated to help pay for the new tennis complex each year.
As noted, the city tax levy remains unchanged at 5.88 mills. It includes 1.50 mills for the general fund, 1.00 for solid waste, 2.00 for street improvement and 1.38 for fire protection.
The city school levy is up 2.72 mills to 64.49 mills, with 50.49 for district maintenance (up 1.72 mills), 3.00 for the three-mill levy and 11.00 for the 2001 note.
None of these budget numbers had received final approval as of press deadline time and could be changed Tuesday. A story next week will note any changes to these preliminary numbers.