Meridian Star

July 14, 2013

City school board seeks tax increase

By Terri Ferguson Smith /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Property taxes in the city may go up slightly if an increase in rates requested by the Meridian Separate School District is approved.

    The district is seeking a 2 mil increase in funding, which will mean an additional $148,000 to the school district, according to Rebecca Stevens, chief fiscal officer for the school district. The school board is expected to vote on the proposed millage rate increase at its meeting on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

    The rate for the 2013 school year was 54.84 mils for operations and 6.31 mils for debt service. That provides the Meridian school district with $19,220,233 in funding. School districts also receive state and federal funding.

    "The Meridian Public School District has implemented a ten-year capital improvement plan to ensure that we maintain our facilities in order to provide students with a safe environment that is conducive to learning, and the proposed rate increase is being utilized to fund year one of the plan," Stevens said.

     The proposed increase that will fund year one of the capital improvement plan includes facility additions and renovations at Magnolia Middle School, T.J. Harris Elementary School, Parkview Elementary School, and West Hills Elementary School, according to Stevens. These additions and renovations include additional classroom space, renovations to meet ADA requirements, and replacement of a roof.

    According to information provided by the school district, the total proposed expenses for 2013-2014 school year is nearly $61.5 million, which is a slight decrease from 2012-13 school year expenditures of just over $62 million.

    As always, the largest portion of the proposed budget  — just over 52 percent — has been allocated for instructional purposes. That includes teacher pay. The district set the budget with the expectation of about 6,100 students in the district.

    A growing expense for the district, as well as other public institutions, are the rising costs of contributing to the state's retirement program — PERS.  The proposed budget includes an increase in employer contribution to retirement from 14.26 percent to 15.75 percent. This increase results in an additional cost to the district of nearly $500,000.

    The proposed budget includes a yearly increase for teachers, per the state scale, and a step raise, based on established salary scales, for classified employees. It also accounts for a 15 percent decrease in federal funding.

    The proposed budget includes several new positions, including a school resource officer, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) Director, five Instructional specialists, full time Interventionist, and PBIS staff on each campus

    Also in the budget is funding for a renovation of the science lab at Meridian High School, repairs to Ray Stadium, implementation of year one of the ten-year capital improvement plan, and the purchase of three new school buses. The operational millage will remain the same; the two mil increase would be to pay down debt.

    The Meridian Star asked the Lauderdale County Tax Assessor's office to calculate how the millage increase would affect the taxes on a house valued at $100,000 that is located in the city of Meridian and is in the Meridian Separate School District.

    Based on an estimate of the current millage of this year, and adding two mils, a preliminary estimate on a $100,000 home with homestead exemption status would be a tax payment of $1,417.     That's an approximate increase of about $20.

    The estimate on a $100,000 home without homestead exemption status would be a tax payment of $2,575. That's an approximate increase of about $30.