Water Valley Board Holds Public Hearing On City Budget

Business owner Casey Washington and Attorney John Crow spoke before the board.

The alley on Panola Street Extended which has been abandoned and will be sold as surplus is highlighted in red.

by Jack Gurner

Reporter

WATER VALLEY – A public hearing on the city’s purposed 2008-2009 budget and the ad valorem tax exemptions for local industry were the major topics of the regular monthly meeting of the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday night, September 2.

Alderman-at-Large Lance Clement presided over his first regular session of the board as interim mayor in the absence of Mayor Bill Norris, who is recovering from heart surgery.

After opening the meeting, Clement said that he had one item to add to the agenda. “It’s an alley on Panola Street for the board to look at for declaring surplus and advertising for sale.”

After approving the agenda and minutes, the board moved on to the public hearing.

Clement said, “I’ll open the floor if anyone would like to be recognized to speak on this budget matter.”

Clement recognized attorney John Crow who represents Water Valley Poultry. “Going through your proposed budget…I’m a little bit concerned if there is an increase in taxes. Is there an increase based on your purposed budget? Is it 37 mills or 40 mills?” Crow questioned.

“The purposed budget is 37 mills. The one that was published in the paper,” Clement said.

“With the option that we could go up to 40,” added City Clerk Vivian Snider.

“If it takes 37 mills to generate that revenue, then why is 40 mills listed?” Crow asked.

Following Crow’s question, there was a discussion on whether or not the variable figure on the milage rate was in the Herald article or if it appeared in the legal notice. In the first paragraph of the legal notice is the sentence: “The anticipated milage rate is 37.00 – 40.00 mils.”

“That’s in your statutory notice. If you are going to increase your millage you’ve got to put it in your notice,” said Crow, who held the position of city attorney for 12 years through several city budgets and has held the position of attorney for the Yalobusha County Board of Supervisors for almost three decades.

“We put that in there because we have not finalized the budget, especially with respect to the exemptions with BorgWarner and Water Valley Poultry,” Clement explained.

“Based upon my analysis of the budget, those exemptions are to be denied. Is that correct?” Crow asked.

“They’re not in that proposed budget, but there has been no vote as to denying or accepting them yet,” Clement answered.

“Let me ask you this. I am a little bit concerned. If you’ve got a budget and you’re required by law to publish what you intend to do for the following year. If you’re going to give us an exemption, that has got to be considered in your budget. Right?” Crow questioned. “Based on your budget in the paper, there’s no exemptions allowed.”

Clement answered, “In that budget, that is correct. That’s not finalized. Tuesday morning it will be voted on and approved.”

“Well, I am a little bit concerned that the city has not complied with state law as far as notice of hearing, content of the notice,” Crow said. “It bothers me that apparently a decision has been made to exclude my clients or deny my clients application for tax exemption.”

And, we’ve had an application in for three and a half months,” Crow continued.

“Is the city going to act on the applications?”

Clement: “It will be acted on.”

Crow: “When ?”

Clement: “Tuesday.”

There was a brief discussion about the publication of the notice and then Crow asked, “Does anyone know how much the loss of revenue the city would experience by denying the application of Water Valley Poultry?”

Clement said he didn’t understand the question.

“How much would you lose if you gave Water Valley Poultry a one-year exemption?” Crow asked.

His question was followed by a discussion of the various figures stated over past weeks regarding the Water Valley Poultry exemption that range from $5,000 to $14,000.

“BorgWarner has a similar tax request. Does anyone know how much you’d lose if you denied their application?” Crow asked.

After a pause, Crow continued.

“Now, somebody knows this answer,” Crow added.

Aldermen Sherry Martin turned in her chair to face Crow and asked, “What’s the point of all this?”

“The point is you’ve got a purposed budget here that in effect has denied these applications,” Crow answered.

Martin explained that the budget showed projected amounts on hand at the beginning and the end of the year. “And,” she added, “there’s some places we can probably transfer some money.”

Crow said, “So, you are saying, based upon what you’ve got left and what you will have at the end of the fiscal year that could be absorbed by the tax exemptions.”

“Yes,” said Martin.

“So, that’s still on the table?” Crow asked.

“Until next Tuesday,” Martin answered.

Crow ended his comments by once again stating that he was working for Water Valley Poultry. He questioned the reasoning for possibly not giving a tax exemption to an industry that employs 161 and is the city’s biggest user of water.

“I’ve been in enough meetings with industry to know that the first thing an industry asks is, what are you going to give me,” he said. “If you don’t give it to them, they will go elsewhere.”

“Anyone else?” Clement asked getting no response. “If there are no others, we will ask the board for a motion to take this under advisement and we will meet again Tuesday, the ninth, at 10 a.m. and we will finalize out budget for the 08-09 year.”

Later in the meeting, Cayce Washington of Valley Tool spoke to the board regarding the tax exemptions for local industry. Washington said that the board had already heard from John Crow representing Valley Poultry. “I’m really here on behalf of BorgWarner. I’m not here representing them. I want to make that clear. I am here as Casey Washington, business owner.”

Washington began by passing out an information sheet that outlined reasons for granting the tax exemption. His major points were the 30-plus years that the company had been a local employer; their clean environmental record; their pay scale; and the overall inpact of the $17 million annual payroll.

He expressed his concern that not granting the exemption would “send a loud statement” to any other industries considering coming to the area.

“Tax exemptions – as I understand it – are a good way for a community to throw the nod for or against a business,” he said.

Washington further explained that by his estimate at least 35 percent of the $17 million payroll stays in the community.  “That’s six million bucks going right back into Water Valley,” he said.

“They have always been community minded,” Washington emphasized.

“I’m not trying to make your decision any harder. I just wanted to shed some light on it,” he said as he concluded his statement.

Clement then announced the last agenda item, the alley on Panola Street Extended. “It’s been abandoned, I believe, about 40 years,” he said. “We’ve been asked to declare it surplus and advertise it for sale.”

“It’s between Panola and Kimmons?” asked Martin.

“Is it off of Panola or Kimmons?” asked Alderman Tommy Swearengen. “Who lives where?”

“Is it a through street or an alley?” asked Alderman Fred White.

After several minutes of looking at a photo of the area, board members were able to determine the location.

“Who wants to buy it?” asked Swearengen.

“Does the electric department or anybody use it for anything,” asked Martin.

As board members continued to discuss the location, Swearengen asked again, “Who wants to buy it?”

In the middle of the discussion, Clement turned to Swearengen and said, “Larry Hart.”

“What about the water?” asked White.

“As far as I know there is no utility on it,” answered Morris Surrette, manager of the water department.

“What do we need to do?” asked Martin, “Declare it surplus?”

“Declare it surplus,” answered Clement, “And, advertise it for sale.”

“And that it is no longer needed or used for any municipal purposes,” added City Attorney David Burns.

Aldermen voted unanimously to advertise the property for sale.

The board then went through the procedure to determine if an executive session would be necessary even though one was already listed on the agenda.

The board returned to regular session after a 23 minute long executive session. They voted to approve the promotion of Brandon Wilbourn from part-time to full-time employee of the fire department.

Next, the board approved the hiring of Nathan Noe as an officer in the police department.


In other actions earlier in the regular session:

• The board voted to pay attorney Burn’s invoice of $1,409.61 for the month of August.

• Aldermen approved a resolution proclaiming May 1, 2009, Silver Star Banner Day. Clement explained that the organization, Silver Star Families of America, had requested that Water Valley join with others cities in Mississippi and across America designating that day to recognize wounded soldiers.

• The board took under advisement joining the Mississippi Rural Water Association (MRWA) Delinquent Water Bill Database. Morris Surrett, superintendent of the water department, explained that the MRWA had taken over the database from an Arkansas company and wanted Water Valley to sign a contract to join.

The database contains the names of individuals and businesses with delinquent water bills and aids in the collection of the overdue accounts. The way the system works is by alerting member cities when someone with a delinquent account attempts to obtain service in another city that is a member. Service can be denied until the overdue bill is paid.

White suggested that board attorney Burns review the contract and approve it.

• The board approved spending $677.38 to outfit the soccer field restroom facilities at the Crawford Sports Complex.

“The water department and the electric department will provide the labor and that should get the restrooms in working condition,” Clement said.

• Aldermen approved transfer of a truck from the electric department to the water department.

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Statement by Casey Washington, owner of Valley Tool:

What does it cost the City of Water Valley to assist Borg Warner with a tax
exemption that could help them in the competitive manufacturing world we live in
today? Estimated property tax of 200,00.00 – 250,000 dollars

What statement does our city want to send to other industries looking to locate
and invest in Water Valley?

Reason’s to Grant Tax Exemption for Borg Warner

    • Has been a long time employer for 30 plus years

    • Clean Industrial Business ; No Smoke, Smbg, Industrial Odors, No Chemical or
Environmental Hazards.

    • Good Local Employment Opportunity; Base staring wage 13.00 per hour, Health
Insurance Benefit, Retirement Benefit, Internal Advancement

    • Economic Impact: $17 Million Direct employee annual payroll,

Untold amount of other direct impact: Restaurant sales, Retail Parts Store Sales, Retail Hardware Sales, Retail Lumber Sales.

Scenario: 35% of annual payroll stays in Community 6,000,000.00.

This money is spent on property upgrades and new housing increasing property tax values.

This money is spent on electricity, water, local personal retail purchases. Generating income for these service departments as well as collect sales tax at theses retail outlets. A portion of the tax returned back to this community.

Use of local health care facilities and local pharmacies.

Purchase of vehicles which help tax revenues. Not to mention local lending institutions collecting interest rates.

Schools $ 342,192.50 for school’s of which $272,000 goes directly into the Water Valley School district.

Largest private employer in the county and city

Has always been a community minded business

Can our community afford to tell our largest employer and possibly largest payroll investor we can not afford 250,000.00?

If Borg Warner is willing to take the risk and invest in our community , Our community should be willing to invest in and assist Borg Warner.

 

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